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Defending a Lawsuit

If you need to consult with an attorney or would like more information on what to do after receiving a court summons, please contact the Erie County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral Service.

Notice that you have been sued in court can be given in several ways. You may receive a summons or a complaint, or a notice from a Magisterial District Court. Usually, the notice will arrive either in the mail or by hand delivery. However, notice may also be posted or published in a newspaper. If you are named as a defendant, then you have been sued in court. If you wish to challenge any part of the claim asserted against you, you must take prompt action to defend the suit against you.

A summons is a notice that a lawsuit has been brought against you. After you receive a summons, it is very likely that you will receive other legal documents which will require you to take action within a specific time period. You should promptly contact an attorney so that you can prepare to defend the case brought against you. You should also promptly contact any insurance company which may provide coverage to you for the claims asserted.

A notice from Magisterial District Court will inform you of the date on which a hearing is scheduled, and will direct you to notify the Magisterial District Judge if you intend to appear at the scheduled hearing. If you intend to defend a suit filed in Magisterial District Court, you or your attorney must attend the scheduled hearing.

If you receive a complaint which has been filed in State or Federal court, you must file a written response with that court. That response must be filed promptly, usually within twenty days of the date you receive the complaint, but in some instances, the response must be filed sooner. A complaint is a specialized document which is usually prepared by a lawyer. There are numerous rules and requirements for filing an acceptable response to a complaint. You should promptly contact an attorney so that an appropriate response to the complaint can be filed within the required time period.

If you do not appear at a Magisterial District Court hearing, or if you do not file an appropriate response to a complaint filed in court within the required time period, a default judgment may be taken against you. This means that the court may award the other party whatever was asked for in the complaint. If a default judgment is entered against you, you may be prevented from defending the claim, and as a result, you may lose money or other rights. The most important point to remember is that if you have been sued, you or your attorney must take prompt action.  3/18