Posted on May 26, 2015

Mario Massillamany

Mario Massillamany

For a decade now, I have worked with dozens of individuals and companies who have rarely had any contact with the legal system until they have been sued and have to defend their own rights.  Then one day, either by certified mail or personal service by a process server, they receive a summons to appear. Understandably, the average upstanding citizen or business owner begins to panic immediately. What do I do now? How will this impact my business? Will I be personally liable? Did I mess something up? These are all common questions that will spin through your head. Take a deep breath and relax. This article explores everything you need to know when you’ve been served with a summons.


Let’s start with the basics: if you receive a summons, you or your business has been sued. While foreign and troubling to the average person, interaction with the legal system is inevitable and even sometimes viewed by experienced litigants as part of “the cost of doing business.” But upon receipt of a summons you do have rights that you must protect by acting swiftly. Indiana courts can be very helpful to defendants who actually act on their rights, and very unforgiving to those who let them slip away, particularly corporate defendants whom the law will often view as more sophisticated.


The lawsuit imitated against you or your business could be for a host of reasons: breach of contract, negligence, collections, divorce, custody, real estate, probate or foreclosure on property, even a tax claim for taxes due. These are all possibilities.  Though each type of case is different, the timeframe for an initial response in Indiana is always the same – twenty (20) days if the summons was served in person, twenty-three (23) days if it was served by U.S. mail.


Regardless of the kind of lawsuit involved then, you have a very short period under which to respond to the complaint (a “complaint” is the list of wrongs and demanded compensation which lays out what the initiating party claims you did wrong).  This means you should consult with and retain an attorney as soon as possible after receiving the summons so that you can be informed of your rights and the defenses that may be available to you.  Below is a quick summary of some of the key aspects of defending litigation in Indiana regardless of the type of claim filed.


In future articles, I will discuss the specific steps of litigation once you have retained at attorney in response to receiving a summons. Your attorney will file a document called an “answer” which admits or denies each allegation in the complaint. The answer can also include specific affirmative defenses (i.e. legal defenses the law says alleviates a party from liability) or counterclaims (i.e. claims that you or your business has against the company or person suing you). In short, there are avenues for you to defend yourself but only if you consult and retain the right counsel to assist you. Although you have the right to defend yourself, doing so is highly risky particularly when the other side has an attorney.


As you can probably tell from the brief sketch of the early stages of litigation, the process can be overwhelming and complex.  There are many, many details to attend to.  One of the first benefits of enlisting an attorney on your side is that you will immediately gain an additional layer of protection from default in the litigation, and can usually gain (sometimes automatically) additional time to respond to the other side in the litigation. If you’ve been sued in Indiana and need competent counsel to assist you with the many pitfalls of defending a lawsuit here, call Massillamany & Jeter LLP at (317) 432-3443 today for a free, initial consultation to help you better understand your rights.


Mario Massillamany is a founding partner of Massillamany & Jeter LLP, a full-service law firm serving central Indiana. For more information on this topic, please contact Mr. Massillamany at (317) 432-3443 or by e-mail at: Mario@mjattorneys.com.


This article is not intended to serve as legal advice. Should you have questions about this topic, you should consult with a licensed lawyer.

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