They threatened to sue! What do I do? (Law note on construction disputes)
I just spent some time answering emails from folks worried because they’ve been threatened with a lawsuit over a construction project gone bad. They want to know:
Can they do that?
What can they get?
But what if I have a good defense?
These are all good questions. The short answer is that anyone can sue anyone else in America for anything, at almost any time. HOWEVER, the law is not (generally) a fool. If someone sues you, but you have a defense or their claim is not well-founded, they almost certainly will not prevail.
Does this mean you can relax? No, it doesn’t. You still must take any lawsuit (no matter how ill-conceived) seriously. Here is what you do:
1. Report any lawsuits, or threats of lawsuits, to your insurance carrier if it involves your errors & omissions professional liability insurance. Even if you are not sure if it involves E&O claims, report it anyhow. Early reporting costs nothing but a few minutes of your time. Late reporting could mean you are denied insurance coverage.
2.File an Answer to any lawsuit within the time frame provided. In North Carolina state court, that is generally 30 days from the date you were “served”, although if you follow certain procedures you can get that extended to day 60. In North Carolina Federal Court (it will say on the Summons whether it is state or federal, and almost but not all construction disputes are state court), you have 20 days to respond (with extensions allowed if you follow certain other procedures).
Questions? Leave a comment or shoot me an email.