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What to Do if Your Illinois Business Gets Sued

May 27, 2019

When you answer the door and there is a sheriff with a badge and a gun handing you court papers, it can be pretty intimidating particularly if this is the first time you or your company has been sued. We counsel a lot of people who are in this situation. Here are five things you should do:

1) Relax

Like a doctor who has so much experience that he can ignore the sight of blood, us lawyer types are not phased at all by the onset of litigation. This is not the case with people who have not been down this road. We get numerous frantic phone calls from people informing us that they were just served with court papers. They are emotional and want to act immediately. However, unless the court papers have the words "emergency motion," "temporary restraining order" or "preliminary injunction" on them, odds are you have plenty of time (usually 28 days) before anything needs to be done. We tell our clients that this just the way people have been brought to civil court from the dawn of the Republic. There sure seems like there should be a better way with the internet and all, but this is simply the legal way for the court to obtain jurisdiction over you and your case. I hate this phrase but it is what it is, do not freak out.

2) Organize Documents

You are going to need all the documents related to the case. Since your mind might be thinking about the case anyway, it might be a good exercise to get started on this in the days after you are served. When we say documents we mean anything possibly related to the case whether paper or electronic (yes this includes emails.) We suggest getting all the emails printed on paper and organized by the sender in chronological order. Do not just organize the "good" ones. Get them all regardless of how you feel they impact your case. And do not think for a second about deleting or destroying any of this stuff. This could get you and your company in serious trouble. With all the discovery experts out there, you will likely be discovered and face some serious punishment.

3) Contact a Lawyer

You knew that was coming. Seriously, if you have an experienced litigation attorney, contact her. Do not contact your cousin Vinny, unless he can recommend an experienced civil attorney. Meet with your attorney to discuss the merits of the case and possible outcomes If you are not comfortable, interview another until you feel good about the relationship. Remember you are going to be working with this person under some serious strain. Make sure you feel right about it.

4) Understand Fees

Lawyers work on different rates and fee schedules. Make sure you understand what you are being charged for and for how much. I saw a fee petition in a case where a secretary was charging over $100 an hour. Create a budget. Eventually, you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement. If you need a lawyer to understand it, you may want to find a new lawyer.

5) Make a Game Plan

You and your lawyer should be on the same page with respect to the case. Should we seek to resolve this before Court? Should we move to dismiss this Complaint? Mediation? Arbitration? Is this a summary judgment case or bet-the-company case. Know what you are going to do at the outset. The default position is a case that is worked up all the way to trial and then settled beforehand. Creating a game plan could save a lot of those expenses.

If you or your business has been sued, allow us the opportunity to serve you.

What Property Is Subject to A Judgment Lien Under Illinois Law?

In Illinois, a judgment lien can be attached to real property, such as a home or condo the judgment debtor owns, it does not attach to personal property owned by the judgment debtor. In order for a judgment creditor to obtain a judgment lien, they must record the judgment in the county where the property is located. Once the judgment is recorded, the lien attaches to the property and will have to be satisfied (or settled) before the property can be sold and title cleared.

Normally, the judgment creditor's attorney will have a memorandum of judgment signed by the judgment which reflects the property address of the judgment debtor, the property index number, and the amount of the judgment to be recorded in the proper format for the recorder of deeds. The memorandum of judgment is normally found on the county's clerk of court website under court forms.

If a judgment debtor does not own any real property in Illinois, you should still record the judgment generally as it will come upon the judgment debtors' credit report and make them more likely to pay off the judgment to avoid adverse effects to their credit. We always recommend our clients record their judgments and if you need help recording a judgment you obtained, get in touch with us.