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Published byFrederick Muddiman Modified over 8 years ago
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU THINK YOUR DISTRICT MAY BE SUED? Crotzer & Ormsby, LLC 130 S. Bemiston, Suite 300 Clayton, MO 63105 314.726.3040
Call your attorney! Why? For advice on how (or if) to communicate with the potential “suer”. Is there an attorney involved? Is an insurance company involved?
Call your District’s liability insurance adjuster Why? Clarify whether there is coverage if/when a suit is filed. Adjuster will open a file and get preliminary information.
Get written statements Why? A lawsuit could be filed many years after the actual event... important memories could fade. Employees involved could retire or move. Make sure the statements are dated and signed.
Gather relevant materials! Including e-mails, FaceBook/Twitter posts, videos Why? These will help everyone better understand the case. Strengths and weaknesses cannot be accurately evaluated until all relevant materials have been collected and reviewed. Your attorney will need these to provide good advice.
Gather relevant materials! One of the worst things that can happen in litigation is the accidental destruction of relevant documents after you have reasonable knowledge a suit may be filed. The opposing side may accuse you of intentionally destroying or damaging evidence and could persuade the judge or jury to agree. Relevant documents should be set aside and preserved so they are not accidentally destroyed due to normal district procedures.
Do not communicate unnecessarily Why? Assume that anything you say, verbally or in writing, to anyone other than your attorney could be used against the District if suit is filed. If you are angry or upset, you may be fairly unguarded in your comments.
YOU’VE BEEN SERVED! Now what?
Don’t Ignore It! Why? There are important deadlines that must be met and the clock starts ticking when the sheriff drops off the petition/complaint.
Send a copy of the petition to your attorney and insurance adjuster Why? Your attorney will need to decide how to respond and time is of the essence. Your insurance adjuster will need to review the petition to determine the District’s insurance coverage.
Tell your attorney everything...... The good, the bad and the ugly! Why? Everything comes out eventually – there are no secrets in litigation. The earlier the attorney knows, the better he/she can prepare and take the best course of action on behalf of the District.
Gather all relevant materials...... And make a copy for your attorney. Why? For the same reasons given when you thought you might be sued. Include correspondence, e-mails, contracts, bills, personnel files, statements, meeting notes, videos/photos, etc.
Meet with your attorney and insurance adjuster Why? All relevant individuals should be present to share their knowledge of the events surrounding the lawsuit. Questions of attorney and adjuster may trigger memories previously not disclosed.
Do not communicate about the lawsuit Why? Communications with employees and 3 rd parties could become public if those people are deposed or subpoenaed. Only communications with the attorney are protected from discovery.
Assist your attorney during the discovery process Why? Your attorney will not have all of the information that is requested in discovery requests. Types of Discovery: Interrogatories: Written questions to which the District will respond, under oath. It may be necessary for several individuals to be involved in obtaining the answers, depending on expertise.
Assist your attorney during the discovery process Types of Discovery, cont.: Production Request: Request for various documents and materials. These items will likely come from the relevant materials that you previously gathered, but additional material may be requested. Request for Admissions: Statements directed to the District or specific individuals to which you will be asked to admit or deny.
Assist your attorney during the discovery process Types of Discovery, cont.: Depositions: Questioning, under oath, regarding the subject of the lawsuit. Questions not permitted in trial are permitted in depositions. Your attorney will want to meet to prepare with you prior to a deposition. Depositions will always have a court reporter present to take down the questions and answers. Some depositions may also be videotaped. Depositions are used to find out what will be testified to at trial or to challenge veracity if answers are different at trial.
Be open to settlement negotiations...... But be prepared to go to trial. Why? At least 95% of all cases settle at some point. It is important to figure out what the case is worth early and move in that direction. You may be better off settling a case today for $1X, rather than litigating for a year or two and reaching the same settlement.
Be open to settlement negotiations...... But be prepared to go to trial. HOWEVER, some cases cannot, or should not, settle because there may genuinely be a matter of principle at stake that outweighs the cost of litigation. Or the other party may have an unrealistic view of what the case is worth.
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