Thanks to my colleague David Mead for this week's legal portion.
Dealing With Being Sued
Did you know that approximately 1.4 million lawsuits are filed in California every year? That is a rather large number of lawsuits and California is usually up there as one of the most litigious states in the United States. Despite the large number of actions filed annually in California, most individuals and businesses have fortunately never been named as a defendant or cross-defendant in a lawsuit. As such, you may not be familiar with the legal process and do not know what to do when you have been sued.
When a plaintiff files a lawsuit, there are generally two main documents that are submitted to the court. One is the complaint, which is a document that details the claims that the plaintiff is making against the various defendants. Such claims could be, for example, breach of contract, unfair competition, misappropriation of trade secrets, personal injury, wrongful death, etc. The complaint is usually unverified, meaning that the statements contained therein are merely allegations set forth by the plaintiff and not sworn to be the truth. In limited circumstances, the plaintiff may filed a verified complaint in which the plaintiff swears under penalty of perjury that the facts contained in the complaint are the truth. The other document that is submitted with the complaint is a summons, which is a written order to somebody to appear in court to answer the complaint. The summons is the document that requires you to respond to the complaint in court. Once the court has issued the summons and accepted the complaint for filing, the plaintiff must then have the summons and a copy of the complaint served on you. This is called service of process.
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