So, you just received some papers from a police officer, or a process server. The person asked you your name, handed you some papers, and said have a nice day. Then you told the officer you did not want them, or refused to accept them. The officer through the papers on the ground in front of you, then they “exit, stage right” as if imitating Snagglepuss in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Well, obviously this is not as comical as a cartoon, as you have just been served with a law suit. Chances are, the first or second page will have the word SUMMONS written on it, and instruct you that you have a certain number of days to respond. What in the world are you suppose to do now?
Well, first of all, upon entering this situation, don't panic. Nothing bad has actually happened yet. The papers are usually simply contain allegations against you, which may be true or not. The first thing I would HIGHLY suggest you do is to seek the advise of an attorney.
Please note, being this blog is bankruptcy related, I will limit my comments to lawsuits involving money. Other lawsuits could be filed, which may also need the assistance of legal counsel.
There are usually a couple a things you can do. First, do nothing. That's right, your eyes are not playing tricks on you as you are looking at the complaint through the dust of the exiting process server. What happens if you do nothing? Well, usually you may receive a judgment against you. Sometimes, depending on the situation, this may be the best course of action, as it avoids discovery that may lead to other causes of action against you. Where an initial cause of action may lead to a judgment that is able to be discharged in bankruptcy (not that I am necessarily recommending bankruptcy, as the filing of a bankruptcy should be a last case alternative), after discovery the language in the judgment from the court may include language that would make it non-dischargeable.
Second course of action is, you guessed it, do something. The something would be to respond to the complaint to let the court know why the complaint is wrong, or why you do not owe the money that is alleged. This means you would raise relevant defenses, affirmative defenses, and counter-claims.
So, how does bankruptcy fit into all this. Again, as a last case alternative, bankruptcy could be contemplated as a means of stopping the law suit, and discharging the debt. Bankruptcy may also be a means of allowing you to pay the debt over a period of time. If you think you might be interested in this course of action, you should seek the advise of a competent bankruptcy attorney in your jurisdiction.