Even in the age of tort reform, lawsuits are prevalent and an inherent cost of doing business. For most companies, it is not a question of if you will be sued, but when. Preparing for inevitable and arming yourself when that time comes are vital to protecting your interests and ensuring the longevity of your company's success. To assist in that process, below are a few general do's and don'ts for litigation success.
(1) Take any lawsuit filed against you seriously: By far one of the biggest mistakes businesses make when they are sued is not taking the complaint seriously or ignoring it altogether. From the moment you are officially "served" with a Complaint, your clock starts running. If time runs out before you file appropriate documents with the Court, you could be in jeopardy of being in default, and a judgment could be rendered against you. If you are served, engage in an action plan immediately.
(2) Call an experienced litigation attorney: As previously mentioned, time is of the essence when you are named in a lawsuit. Immediately engaging with a qualified litigation practitioner allows time for you and your attorney to (i) develop an action plan to move forward, (ii) protect your interests by answering the allegations contained in the complaint, and, (iii) if appropriate, file other claims related to the matter against the plaintiff or third parties. Since business representatives are not allowed to advocate on behalf of their registered companies without engaging in the unauthorized practice of law, it is crucial that you seek assistance immediately.
(3) Start gathering relevant information: Once you have been served, it is important to start gathering information relevant to the allegations in the complaint and any allegations you may have against the plaintiff or relevant third parties. The more work you do to become knowledgeable on the matters at hand, the better off you will be.
(1) Don't destroy evidence: Regardless of how helpful or harmful potential evidence and information may be against you, once there is even a possibility that a lawsuit may be filed, you have an obligation to preserve it. Destroying evidence and information could result in further claims against you, or sanctions issued by the Court.
(2) Don't discuss the lawsuit with others without checking with your attorney: In civil litigation, there is a process referred to as "discovery" whereby the opposing party can request potentially relevant documents, evidence, and information from you. While there are some bases when a party can object to these requests, civil litigation encourages the free exchange of information. Accordingly, be advised that your emails and even oral communications can become discoverable. To avoid unnecessary pitfalls, talk to your attorney about how best to communicate (or not communicate) about relevant matters.
If your business has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit in Ohio, or you would like to discuss other business strategies, please reach out to Jennifer Grewe at [email protected] or 937-223-8177.