If you own a business or are involved in running a business, chances are good that you will need to defend against a lawsuit someday. But receiving the summons and complaint still comes as a shock to many, especially when it happens for the first time. Rightly so; a lawsuit is an uncomfortable thing. However, a business has many actions it can take when it discovers it has been sued. With the right guidance and a good strategy, a business can often minimize the damage from a lawsuit. This post contains some helpful tips for decision-makers at businesses who are being sued.
1. Contact an Attorney.
This may seem obvious, but this is sometimes not the first step that is taken by business owners. An attorney will help evaluate the claims against your business and help develop a defense strategy. Contacting an attorney should be done immediately. Courts have strict time limits for responding to a lawsuit, and missing the deadline to answer a complaint may lead to a default judgment.
2. Evaluate the Case.
This should be done with the help of an attorney. Narrow your focus to specific questions. Who is being sued? Is it just the business, or is it the directors and owners as well? Who is suing you? Is it a former employee, a rival company, or a dissatisfied customer? What are the precise causes of action? Is it a contract claim, or is there a tort claim such as negligence? Once you have identified the specific items at issue in the case, you can then focus on a plan of defense.
3. Gather Information.
This is where it is helpful to keep complete and accurate records at your business. Search for all documents and other evidence relevant to your case. This can include items such as client invoices, performance reviews, emails, letters, bank statements, or employee complaints. Even items that may not seem relevant can sometimes help your attorney formulate a vigorous defense strategy.
4. Prepare a Plan.
This is a point where some business owners struggle. Some are tempted to settle immediately, and end up paying for a case that has no merit. Others are tempted to dig in and fight to the very end on a losing case, thus compounding the cost to their business. Your attorney is an invaluable resource here, as he or she should be able to give you a good idea of the strength of the claims against you.
As for your defense strategy, your attorney will help you answer questions about things such as whether or not to bring counterclaims, what types of information to seek in discovery, whether any other parties may be responsible to your business for damages, or whether you should consider something such as a change of venue.
5. Keep an Open Mind.
The simple fact is that lawsuits are expensive. Expenses can include time, money, relationships, and sometimes public relations. Lawsuits can also be unpredictable. Many times, a piece of information or an opportunity will arise where a case can be settled and the damage can be kept to a minimum. Other times, the situation may call for a quick change in strategy. Business owners and leaders should be ready to consider these opportunities as they arise so they are not lost.
While there is obviously much more that goes into defending a business lawsuit, the tips above will help remove some of the uncertainty associated with the experience, especially for a first-time defendant. With a good attorney and an effective strategy, a business lawsuit does not have to be a critical blow to your business.
The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC have represented many businesses in lawsuits as both plaintiffs and defendants. Our attorneys have obtained many favorable results in these cases. While we sincerely hope you are never forced to defend a lawsuit, do not hesitate to contact us if the situation arises. We would be happy to discuss how we could help you.
The attorneys of Dalton & Tomich, PLC have the experience and the knowledge to work with you to develop a legal solution that helps accomplish your goals. Our collaborative approach has helped leaders like you grow businesses and banks, develop and expand churches, and build nonprofit organizations nationwide.
In my role as Administrative Bishop for the Church of God, quite often we are faced with issues that involve local governments and municipalities. Many of these issues that arise in dealing with entities are land use related. I have found Dalton & Tomich’s experience and expertise in this area to be a valuable resource and asset in every situation.
Never one time during a year-long litigation process did Dalton & Tomich demonstrate anything other than Christ-like professionalism. They managed the legal details, while we continued to do church. How they managed themselves, managed our case, and represented our church set the table for me and our church to be where we are today.
Dalton & Tomich’s expertise and experience helped us through a very difficult legal journey, ultimately achieving a favorable outcome. Their personal interest in helping us went “above and beyond” just the call of duty.