Unfortunately in today’s business environment, almost every business owner will have to face defending a lawsuit at some time during running of their business. Below are several steps from our Atlanta business litigation attorneys that should be taken to avoid common pitfalls of defending a business in a lawsuit. These suggestions also apply to business disputes that have not yet resulted in litigation, yet.
1.Contact Your Attorney Immediately: Do not wait to contact your business attorney. In Georgia, you have thirty (30) days to file an Answer to a Complaint from the date your company was originally served with the lawsuit. Fortunately, Georgia law provides for an additional fifteen (15) days to file an Answer before you or your company can no longer fully defend itself. However, waiting this long requires that you pay costs to the court. There is no advantage in waiting that long and certainly no reason to have to pay costs to the court so do not wait until your thirty days is up to contact your attorney. When you contact your attorney, you need to tell him or her the exact date your company was served so he or she can keep that deadline in mind for the reasons stated above.
In Georgia, your company can be served with a lawsuit by having a sheriff or personal process server hand deliver a summons and complaint to one of several people—the registered agent designated for service of process, any officer of the company or other person designated for service of process. This can often times create issues since someone in the company may be served that does not let the proper officer know of the service in time to handle the response. If you hire an outside company to serve as your business’ registered agent then you will not have problem as the company will be served nine times out of ten. However, if you select someone within your company to be the registered agent, you need to remind this person that it is imperative that he or she make note of the day when served and to immediately notify you or someone else elected to be responsible for contacting your attorney.
Plaintiffs can also serve any of the company’s officers with suit papers. It is thus important that you express to all of your officers what they should do if and when served . It is ultimately very important to tell your attorney who was served with the suit papers so he or she knows whether a service of process defense will be necessary. Plaintiffs often inappropriately serve a front desk secretary with suit papers, an employee who is not an officer of the company and/or not an agent assigned by the company to received service of process.
2.Get Facts and Evidence: It is always advisable that you keep detailed records throughout the course of your business relationship with clients, customers, partners, and vendors. If a dispute arises or you are sued, you want to be able to provide your attorney with detailed evidence of the agreements and most importantly, the communications you have had with the other party regarding transactions and disputes that may have arisen. If your company does a lot of communicating over the phone, make it a habit to keep notes on any important conversations at or near the time they occurred. More often than not, litigation occurs years after the underlying events that caused the dispute occurred. Being able to look back at tangible evidence of what occurred, created at the time, will help your business litigation attorney defend the business. When you make notes of important conversations, it is also important to note who you were talking to and the identity of others involved in the transaction or conversation. Later this will help your attorney identify witnesses that may be important. Years later key employees or agents of the other party that you were dealing with may be long gone.
3.Keep Relations with Opposing Side Civil: Despite the differences you may have with the party you are in a dispute with or has already sued you our your business, keeping the lines of communication open is always advisable. More often than not, business litigation matters or disputes end in a compromise and settlement of the dispute at some stage of the litigation process. Having kept the lines of communication open with the opposing party before you hire an attorney and through your attorney, during the litigation, will help facilitate a beneficial compromise before having to spend the money to try the case to a judge or jury. It is always better to have to try a case because the other party is the one who is being unreasonable. Litigation is expensive, whether you are on the right side of the law or not, and any time you can reasonably conclude a dispute short of going all the way through a trial, the better off you and your business will be. It ultimately comes down to a business decision that can only be made by you and your partners. However, sometimes it just does not make sense to settle and your attorney will be helpful to you in making that decision.
If you would like to speak to one of our Atlanta business attorneys about your litigation needs feel free to give us a call at (470) 336-5562 or visit our website for more information. Please also feel free to send us a confidential e-mail through our Web Site “Contact Us“ form. Spaulding Law has four conveniently located offices in Atlanta, Alpharetta and Cumming, Georgia. Our Firm represents clients throughout the Metro Atlanta and North Georgia area, including: Atlanta, Alpharetta, Cumming, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Decatur, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Smyrna, Duluth, Acworth, Fayetteville, Norcross, Canton, John’s Creek; DeKalb County, Fulton County, Cobb County, Forsyth County, Gwinnett County, Fayette County, Clayton County, Dawson County and Cherokee County.