Imagine the scene – you are sitting at your kitchen table with a paper that reads “Summons” stapled on top of a packet entitled “Complaint.” You are nervous, mad, confused, anxious, and lost. The papers have “Superior Court of New Jersey” written on them, with words like “Civil Action” and “Law Division.”
What happens now? Am I in trouble?
First, lets decipher the legalese and get to the bottom of what you are looking at. Someone has decided to sue you and there is now a lawsuit pending against you in the New Jersey Superior Court (either Law Division or Chancery Division – we will discuss the differences later on).
You have two options at this point in the game:
(1) Do nothing (not recommended)
(2) File an Answer or Motion
OPTION #1 – Doing nothing or pretending you were never served will never be the best course of action. The process server or sheriff (man or woman who handed you – or maybe mailed you – the summons and complaint) will file a document with the Court claiming, under penalty of perjury, that they served you. This document (“Proof of Service”) will establish that you were, in fact, served properly. No amount of whining or complaining will help you rebut this presumption. Continuing to ignore documents sent to you by the Court or the other party’s attorney will only make matters worse and you may end up with a recorded judgment against you (at which point the plaintiff may garnish your wages and levy on your property).
Filing an answer or a motion (to dismiss, for a more definite statement, etc etc) is the recommended course of action when you are sued.
The next blog post will focus on responding to the Complaint – including affirmative defenses and the decision whether or not to add a counterclaim.
See you next time!