What I find most disturbing is that major legal rights and privileges are lost daily by inaction. This is my call to action blog. Please, please, please: When you get a document delivered to you by someone, i.e. a sheriff deputy or process server, or by certified mail requiring your signature, believe that it is important and understand that something needs to happen. Time will be of the essence. Don’t be afraid of it. Stare it down and deal with it head on.
This is my effort to head off unnecessary losses of monies and property. Most likely, that little delivery is a lawsuit, which in South Carolina is topped with a document called a Summons. The Summons clearly states that you have thirty (30) days after the date of delivery to file an Answer to a Complaint. The Complaint is the document behind the Summons that tells you why you are being sued.
This might be the moment to get on the horn and schedule an appointment with an attorney. Maybe you feel that you cannot afford to hire an attorney, and then you throw your hands in the air in great despair. At a minimum, get a consultation for advice before your 30 days are up. Jot down the day that you received the documents so that you don’t miss your deadline. A call to the attorney who sent the paperwork and who opposes you does nothing at all to assist you in the procedural process or protect your rights.
There are two things that you, the recipient of the lawsuit, will minimally need to do to stop the bleed. One is to file a response to the lawsuit, addressing each allegation stated in the Complaint; i.e., whether you agree or disagree, and to state your defenses. Yes, this is lawyer work. This original document needs to be filed in court. It is called an Answer, and it should also be timely mailed or delivered to the attorney or party who sent it after it is filed.
More will need to be done, but one representing him or herself is often called a fool, but technically, it is called a Pro Se appearance, pronounced “pro-say.” The foolishness should not be allowed to last too long. One should scurry quickly to a person qualified to assist as that bare bones response could possibly be amended later to get better legal footing. This will be very much like me trying to repair someone’s painful foot; I would probably offer an aspirin and a soft shoe, but I will not proceed with cutting on any toes. A disaster for sure! Likewise, if that recipient is you, don’t cut off your own foot off by trying to represent yourself.
My rally for you to Answer comes from the thought that anybody can sue you for anything and I have seen some things in my time. What a person or company alleges in the Complaint may be untrue and the recipient may think it is all so ridiculous – thus he or she concludes that they are not going to deal with the idiocy. Bad decision. Failure to respond within the 30-day period most likely renders a favorable decision to the person bringing the lawsuit, who is then entitled to get whatever they asked for in the Complaint, in most cases. It’s called a default. It gets worse if the non-answering recipient owns any real estate; then the lien automatically attaches to the Defendant’s home or real estate. There are some limited situations and limited time periods in which this travesty might be undone.
I guarantee that the costs to undo this awful event will be much more than the postage stamps that would have been expended by simply filing and serving an Answer.
Let’s bring this situation to life and suppose that Billy Price has a company called the Wishy Washy Corporation. It owns and operates the Purple Devil Car Wash. A fella by the name of Joey Saluda runs his 2016 Maserati through the car wash, and somehow the frame on his prized car was bent. (Yes, I know that no one would run a Maserati through a do it yourself carwash, but let’s keep it interesting). Billy’s business had taken off a bit and he was able to buy the home of his dreams a few years ago. Joey Saluda sues the Wishy Washy Corporation, and “Billy Price, individually” for $68,000.00. Billy is certain that he has no liability because his car wash business is run by the corporation and he feels protected. That was the whole point of him incorporating, right? Billy sticks the lawsuit papers in his desk drawer, never files an Answer, and tells Joey not to ever come around his business again. Thirty (30) days pass and Billy has done nothing with the lawsuit.
Joey will file an Affidavit of Default with the court and possibly attend a hearing. More than likely, the court will enter a judgment against The Wishy Washy Corporation and Billy personally, whether Billy shows up to court or not. Billy has lost the right to defend himself because he did not earlier file and serve an Answer.
The judgment creates a lien on the assets of the Wishy Washy Corporation, and Billy’s home. Joey may be able to one day take Wishy Washy’s property and foreclose on Billy’s home. Joey’s judgment in South Carolina is in effect for ten (10) years and accrues interest!
Had Billy filed an Answer to say that he was not individually responsible as Joey only had dealings with the corporation, or put forth his defense that Joey is the one that put his car in drive and it ran off of the rails while in the car wash, he might not have the debt or lien on his property.
So please, please, please answer should you get lawsuit papers. Protect your assets!
All of the names in this blog are fictional and the likeness of any actual person or business is purely coincidental.
The information contained in this blog is general information, gleaned from thoughts of the author. None of the information contained herein is intended to serve as legal advice for any particular person or any particular circumstance. If you have circumstances which you believe are related to the subject of this blog, you should consult an attorney or other professional for a full and thorough review and analysis of your situation.