Fargo INC! August 2018

Page 56

BY Todd Zimmerman and Brandt Doerr

Don’t Lose a

Legal Battle

Before Entering the Ring

Todd Zimmerman Todd Zimmerman is a Fredrikson & Byron shareholder and litigator who represents a wide range of business and individuals. He can be reached at TZimmerman@FredLaw.com.

Tips for What to Do If You're Served with a Summons or Complaint*

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business owner can be faced with uncertainty and dread when served with a summons and complaint, especially when it occurs without warning. Getting served can be jarring, even embarrassing, if it happens while you're working with customers at your place of business. Unfortunately, along with the freedom and economic potential that comes with owning a business, there's always some risk of incurring liability. Whether the complaint arrives from a customer, an individual claiming to have been injured while at your business, or from another business, it's reasonable to be concerned and unsure of what steps to take to protect yourself and your company. Lawsuits can arise from a wide range of issues, from a simple slip and fall to contract disputes to complicated matters involving competitors, business governance and securities issues.

Brandt Doerr Brandt Doerr is a Fredrikson & Byron associate who works on commercial litigation, as well as employment and labor matters. He can be reached at BDoerr@FredLaw.com.

When you get served, there are certain actions that should be taken promptly. Being proactive under these circumstances will give your business the best chance of avoiding potential liability and bringing about a swift resolution to the dispute.

QUESTION #1 Can I ignore the summons and complaint?

*Disclaimer: Since each situation is different, readers should consult a qualified attorney for legal advice. This article addresses common issues on the topic but should not be considered legal advice.

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No! This is never a good idea. A failure to respond to a complaint exposes a defendant to entry of a default judgment. In federal courts and in North Dakota state court, a defendant has 21 days to respond. In Minnesota state court, a defendant has 20 days to respond. A default judgment can be entered simply on the basis of failing to answer a complaint, and even though it didn't result from a trial or a decision on the merits of your case, a default judgment can still be used to collect money from you. Ignoring a complaint has the effect of admitting to the allegations in the complaint and, simply put, exposes your business to financial liability. While it's possible to ask a court to re-open a case that's had a default judgment entered, it's not something the court will do without good reason. A court may relieve a party from a default judgment for excusable neglect, but the court is by no means required to do so. Without unique circumstances that show some attempt to answer a complaint or a unique excuse for not answering it, simply ignoring a complaint is generally not grounds for re-opening a case after a default has been entered. In other words, by ignoring the complaint, you will likely lose your legal fight without even entering the ring.