By Michael G. Louis, Esquire-
The first thing to do after being served with a Complaint is to immediately send a copy of it to your attorney and if you don’t have one, hire one. Too often I talk to clients after they have allowed the party suing them to obtain a judgment against them.
Sometimes they do not respond because they were smart enough to form an LLC or limited partnership or corporation to insulate themselves from liability but did not realize that just because they did that does not protect them if the plaintiff that is suing them sues them individually in addition to the LLC or other entity they formed. They still have to raise the defense that they were doing business under the name of an LLC or whatever the formal entity was that they formed.
Another reason clients have given me for not defending the Complaint promptly is they see an arbitration date on the Complaint which was served upon them. What they don’t realize, but should if they read the Notice to Plead on the front of the Complaint, is that they are required to file an Answer or Preliminary Objections within twenty days of being served with the Complaint. If they don’t do that, then they have another ten days after receiving a ten-day default notice from the attorney for the plaintiff. If they still don’t file an Answer or Preliminary Objections to the Complaint within ten days of the date of the ten-day default notice, then the plaintiff can take a default judgment against them. The arbitration date only comes into play if they first respond to the complaint by filing an answer or preliminary objections promptly.
To avoid having a judgment entered against you even when you have a valid defense, contact your attorney or hire one as soon as you are served with a Complaint.
Michael’s personal practice supports the needs of businesses and homeowners in a changing economic environment. He has extensive experience in mortgage foreclosures, collections and loan workouts, general counsel work and real estate litigation. Michael has been with MacElree Harvey, Ltd. since 1980.