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Tips for Businesses
February 10, 2017

What To Do When Your Company Receives a Summons and Complaint

Being on the receiving end of a lawsuit can be stressful ---  whether or not you've seen it coming.  Here are some helpful tips from our litigation team to help your company navigate the preliminary stages of responding appropriately and quickly after receipt of a lawsuit.

  • Look carefully at the documents that have been served on your company.  If properly served, there should be a summons and a complaint. Note who received the documents, and when.
  • Note the deadline to respond.  The summons should state the deadline to formally respond to the complaint. These deadlines vary, depending on whether the lawsuit is in federal or state court, and also on whether the lawsuit has been served outside the state where the lawsuit was filed. For instance, federal court lawsuits generally allow 21 days from the date of service to respond, while in Oregon state court, the deadline is generally 30 days. It is important to respond timely to a complaint in order to prevent the opposing party from obtaining a default judgment against your company.  
  • Issue a litigation hold and preserve all information related to the subject of the lawsuit.  Once your company can reasonably anticipate litigation, your company has a duty to preserve evidence that may be related to the lawsuit.  Failure to preserve evidence can lead to spoliation claims and sanctions in court, so it is critically important that your company stop any regular document-destruction practices and take steps to protect all information that may be relevant to the lawsuit ---  including emails, electronic documents, paper files, voicemails, text messages, photographs, logs, calendars, and so on. This may involve working with your IT Department to place a hold on email accounts and other electronic folders.
  • Notify your company's insurance carrier.  If your company has insurance that may provide defense or indemnity to your company, be sure to put your insurer on notice as soon as you are aware of the lawsuit. Failure to do so can jeopardize coverage.  Be cautious that your company may be on the hook to pay any settlement amounts to the plaintiff that were offered without your insurer's knowledge or consent, even if the settlement amount may otherwise have been covered.  Also be sure to review your insurance policy to see what types of claims may be covered.  For instance, if your company has an employment practices liability policy, certain types of lawsuits by employees or former employees may be covered.
  • Plan ahead for press inquiries.  Lawsuits are public records, and, depending on the nature of the lawsuit, your company may quickly receive media requests for comment.  In such situations, it is critical to plan ahead ---  with the assistance of counsel ---  how you or your company's representatives will respond to such requests. 
  • Give your counsel a call as soon as possible, so that she or he will have time to analyze the complaint and advise you on the next steps.  Keep in mind that certain strategic decisions ---      such as whether to file an early motion to dismiss or whether to remove a state court lawsuit to federal court ---       have short time-frames, so the more time you and your counsel have to consider these issues together, the better.
  • Don't talk about the case with anyone except those who are working with your company's counsel to respond to the lawsuit.  Within your organization, identify those individuals who need to be working with your counsel to resolve the case and do not discuss the case with anyone outside that small circle including on social media.  This will assist in maintaining the attorney-client privilege.
Has your company received a summons and complaint? The Farleigh Wada Witt Litigation Practice Group is here to help.  Contact us at 503.228.6044 or at any of our email addresses below.

 AttorneysFarleigh Wada Witt Litigation Attorneys

Brad Stanford  has assessed and managed clients' risks and successfully litigated cases involving such diverse matters as business disputes, product liability, personal injury, insurance coverage, class actions, environmental matters, wage and hour and other employment issues, and real estate disputes for over 30 years.  Brad considers his clients' business objectives and financial considerations when collaborating on litigation strategy. He has extensive courtroom experience and has tried many cases.

Kim McGair 's practice emphasizes a wide range of litigation matters, including business litigation, consumer law defense, personal injury defense, real estate litigation, employment law and commercial collection. Kim is an advocate for her clients and provides them with strong representation to protect their interests and help them achieve their goal as efficiently as possible. Over the past sixteen years she has successfully arbitrated and tried cases for businesses and financial institutions as well as assisted numerous clients in negotiating favorable ends to their litigation disputes in all facets of business.

Mark McCulloch has gained invaluable litigation expertise, insight, and experience solving all types of legal disputes throughout his 40+ years of practicing law. He focuses his practice in the areas of civil litigation, including business disputes and probate litigation, professional malpractice, personal injury, and large asset non-custody divorce proceedings. He has conducted trials in more than 20 counties in Oregon, as well as federal courts, and has settled hundreds of cases through alternative dispute resolution.

Kelly Tilden  focuses her practice in the areas of employment law, business, and litigation. She advises clients regarding the hiring, discipline and termination of employees, compliance with state and federal civil rights, wage and hour laws, and leave laws. Kelly offers practical guidance and experienced-based insight to help employers confidently apply state and federal regulations.

Trish Walsh  focuses her practice in the areas of litigation and employment law, protecting clients' interests inside and outside the courtroom, including at the trial-court level and on appeal. She practices in a wide variety of civil litigation areas including complex commercial, debtor-creditor and employment, offering a broad range of services to our business and financial clients.

Tara Schleicher is a tough negotiator and skilled litigator who knows how to balance clients' business interests with legal needs to save time, effort, and business capital. She protects clients' interests in all types of bankruptcy, insolvency and litigation matters.  Her clients include business debtors in need of restructuring; financial institutions, loan servicers, businesses, receivers, bankruptcy trustees and unsecured creditors' committees.

Jason Ayres helps banks, equipment lease and finance companies, credit unions, and other commercial lenders protect their collateral and maximize their recovery in bankruptcy, collection, and litigation matters. He defends commercial and consumer creditors' interests, rights and remedies inside and outside the courtroom.

Melissa Chapman  has a diverse litigation practice defending companies and individuals in business, trust and estate, real estate, and employment disputes. She is a skilled communicator and advocate for her clients, providing sound and practical guidance at each stage of litigation. Melissa is professional, personable, and compassionate when helping her clients deal with unexpected and difficult situations.

Margot Seitz has a broad litigation practice where she represents companies and individuals in state-court litigation. Her experience includes property disputes, construction defect claims, business dissolution disputes, commercial collections, contract disputes, and estate dispute litigation. Margot's economics, business, and debtor-creditor experience all come together to help her analyze what potential claims are truly worth.

Nathalie Bougenies' international background offers a valuable perspective to clients whose lives and businesses are increasingly shaped and affected by globalization. Nathalie practices in several areas including business law, intellectual property, real estate, and litigation, enabling her to assist companies with a full range of legal and business challenges.

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The contents of this publication are intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion on specific facts and circumstances.


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