What to Do if Your Business is Sued in IL
You answer a knock at the door and a deputy sheriff or process server hands you a copy of a summons and complaint. Your business is being sued. Now what? What do you do? How do you protect your business? Read on for tips on what to do after being sued in Illinois. If your company has been sued, talk to an Illinois commercial litigation attorney for advice and representation.
If you receive a demand letter, a cease and desist, or–most aggressively–service of a summons and complaint, it’s important to act fast. If you’ve been officially sued, you have a certain amount of time to respond to the complaint, likely a matter of weeks. You may ultimately file an answer, a counter-complaint, or a request for additional time to respond, but however you eventually respond, you have a limited amount of time to do so.
Failing to respond to a complaint within the requisite time period can lead to a default judgment. A default judgment is essentially a forfeit, giving the plaintiff the chance to win automatically and collect whatever damages or other relief they are seeking. Do not wait around and waffle about what to do–start acting immediately.
Call Your Lawyer
The first thing you should do when you receive notice of a lawsuit is to call your business lawyer. Your company’s attorney can start preparing your response and work with you to determine what to do next. It’s helpful for any business to have a regular relationship with a business law attorney to handle situations just like this one. Your regular lawyer may be able to handle the matter on their own, or they can help you find a law firm that handles business litigation of this nature. If you do not have a regular lawyer, you should act quickly to find and retain a law firm to handle the case.
Start Preserving Documents
If you’ve been hit with a lawsuit, then any documents or other evidence pertaining to the facts asserted in the complaint might now be considered evidence. You are legally required to preserve any evidence that may become relevant to the case. If your company maintains a retention policy pursuant to which old emails and documents are destroyed on a set time period, you’ll need to pause that destruction while the case is pending. Once you are on notice of the case, you are responsible for ensuring that no relevant evidence is destroyed. If a court finds out that you have been destroying evidence–even if you were simply continuing a practice you already had in place–you could be subject to sanctions.
If the case involves wage and hour allegations, for example, then you need to preserve wage sheets, account statements, emails among supervisors about wages or the employees involved, phone records, text messages, other communications with the employees involved, and other relevant documents. Talk to your business litigation attorney about what documents to preserve and how to go about starting the preservation process. Preserving documents in the digital age can be more challenging than it may first appear.
Check With Your Insurance Provider
With assistance from your attorney, you should talk to your insurance provider. Your general liability insurance may cover the instant dispute, or you may have specific coverage pertaining to the dispute at issue (such as Directors & Officers liability insurance). The insurance company may cover your legal costs as well, but it’s important to notify them of the matter promptly.
Do Not Talk to the Plaintiff or Their Lawyer
Once a case has been filed, you should not have direct contact with the other party or with their attorney. All communication should be filtered through your attorney. If the other party’s lawyer tries to talk to you directly, refer them to your lawyer. If they persist and try to talk to you directly, they are committing a legal ethics violation; they are required to go to your chosen counsel.
Work With Your Attorney to Build a Game Plan
Once the lawsuit is moving forward, you should discuss the matter with your attorney, find out how much the case may be worth, and start building a plan to respond to the lawsuit. Work out a budget for fees and expenses, and discuss how to start preserving evidence and building your side of the case. The lawyer will help you understand the process and how to limit your liability. Every case is different, but your attorney will give you a general idea of what to expect and what your next steps should be.
Call a Dedicated and Trial-Ready Illinois Business Litigation Attorney for Assistance With a Lawsuit
If your company has been sued, or if you need help with compliance, governance, or other business law matters in Illinois, get diligent, thorough legal assistance by contacting the Chicago business litigation attorneys at MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle in Hoffman Estates at 847-310-0025 and in Des Plaines at 847-298-5030.