Top 3 Worst Reasons To Ignore Your Summons

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Daniel T. Goodwin have handled a lot of pre-trial conferences and mediation efforts in civil cases. We’ve watched Defendants stand up in court, unrepresented, and plead their case. We’ve had conversations with Defendants who call our offices hoping to negotiate a settlement. So, We’ve heard every kind of excuse about why a Defendant thinks that they are not required to respond to a Summons and Complaint.

These excuses can range from the heartbreaking (“I’ve had a *really* bad run of luck and the Plaintiff should cut me some slack”) to the expected (“It’s someone else’s fault” or “I don’t have any money to pay”) to the bizarre (“This is all part of a government-led conspiracy to ruin me”).  One of the most frequent “excuses” that we hear, however, is that the Summons and Complaint were not properly served. Rarely is the excuse valid.

There appears to be a widespread misconception in the public about what will stand as proper service and what will get a Defendant (at least temporarily) out of the courts. Here are the top three arguments I’ve heard that service was improper and the reason that these will fail most people in Colorado:

  • “I know the person who served me”/”I don’t know the person who served me”

The only restrictions in Colorado regarding the person serving the Summons and Complaint are that they be over the age of 18 and that they not be a party to the action. You may get served by a Sheriff’s deputy, a professional process server, or just an adult friend of the Plaintiff. As long as they are over 18 and not a party, you will need to respond to the Summons and Complaint.

  • “They left the papers with someone else”

You do not need to be personally handed the Summons and Complaint in Colorado. You will be considered “personally served” if the legal papers are left at your home with a family member over the age of 18. You will also be considered “personally served” if the papers are left at your place of work with your boss, secretary, HR department, or any number of other co-workers. Special rules apply to Defendants between the ages of 13-18.

  • “I just refused to take the documents”

Colorado recognizes “service by refusal”. If you refuse to accept the papers, and the process server has reason to identify you as the proper Defendant, they merely need to state what they are serving and leave the papers behind in a conspicuous place. You’ve just been served.

Failure to respond to a Summons and Complaint is a dangerous game. If you have been properly served, a default judgment may be entered against you fail to show up in court. Any defenses or counterclaims that you may have had may be forever lost. If you have been served post-judgment documents such as Interrogatories or a Subpoena, your failure to show up in court may result in a contempt citation, or even a bench warrant, being issued against you.

If you have been served legal documents in a civil matter and need help responding, contact our Civil Litigation Team today.

Tips for Preparing for Your Initial Attorney Consultation

To improve the quality of the consultation, as well as the case once it is accepted by the Firm, it helps if you prepare for your initial meeting with the attorney.

Before you come to the meeting, gather all documents, contracts, agreements, statements, invoices, guaranties, tax documents, notices, witness statements and/or witness information, pictures and videos, etc., you have in reference to your matter.  If at all possible, sit down and make a timeline or a history of the issue so that dates and events flow in the proper order and the storyline is easier to understand.  A journal or diary would be beneficial throughout the matter.

If you are seeking assistance with preparing a contract or a promissory note, take a moment to create an outline of the points to be addressed in the contract and note the consideration and who will be responsible to perform which point.

If you are an individual seeking assistance with an employment matter, sit down and make a timeline or a history of the issue so that dates and events flow in the proper order and the storyline is easier to understand.  Include your start date, your title at start, your pay at start.  You will want to include any changes to that information up to the present date.  Also include any problems there were, evaluations, and any commendations or awards you received.  Please provide any company policies you may have.  All of this information is important in the resolution assessment.

If you are an employer seeking assistance with an employment matter, please bring the employment file, company policies, and an outline of the issues to be discussed so that a proper resolution can be assessed.  If you are seeking to create company policies, then bring in an outline of the issues you have and ideas on policies you desire to create to address those issues.

If you are seeking a consultation in reference to a potential litigation matter (collections, business and owner disputes, real estate dispute, evictions, appeals, partnership conflicts, minority shareholder suits, family business issues, breaches of contract, employment matters, etc.), please make certain to bring all the documentation to show your position from start of the relationship to the present.  In this type of matter, it might be an easier presentation of your matter if you make a timeline and then support the timeline with any documentation, etc., that you have.  As many names of involved parties should be ready to be provided.

If you are seeking a consultation in reference to tax resolution (tax liens, levies and garnishments, audits penalty abatements, offers in compromise, etc.), then please bring whatever documentation you have regarding the situation, including copies of notices and your tax records for the past few years (or more if the situation in question began before then) to the present.  Here again, a timeline or history of how you got into the situation, along with any supporting documentation would be beneficial.

If you are seeking a consultation for intellectual property, bring (as best you can) the property with you when you meet with the attorney.  A copy will be needed for any application.

If you are seeking assistance for a small business or arts and entertainment (contracts, partnership agreements, business sales and purchases, franchises, etc.), bring whatever contracts or agreements for which you seek assistance with you.  If you do not yet have a contract or agreement, bring the outline of the points you are looking to incorporate into a contract or agreement.  If you are considering the start of a business or seeking to form an entity or obtain a liquor license, then bring your ideas and any documentation you have accumulated surrounding those ideas.

If you were involved in a collision and have sustained injuries, you might want to bring pictures of the damaged vehicles, videos of the scene, a rough sketch of the positions of the vehicles drawn out, a complete copy of your insurance policy, a copy of the police report and/or card of the responding officer, any witness information provided to you, and any pharmaceutical, medical, billing, and other expense records that you have in your possession related to the incident.  Keeping a journal or diary of who you treated with and when, work/school you missed and why, prescriptions, out of pocket costs and expenses, limitations and the steps taken to work around those limitations now in your day-to-day life due to the injury would be beneficial through the matter.  You might also include a list of equipment, people and companies or organizations (along with their cost) you have had to depend on and their expenses and limitations that they have had in providing you the assistance you have required since your injury.

Likewise, if you were involved in a personal injury resulting from a slip and fall, you might want to bring pictures of the location of the slip and fall in order to show what caused the slip and fall.  You will want to compile as many of the same things you would had you been involved in a collision.

If the matter you have involves a wrongful death or a medical malpractice, bring a copy of the medical records from the date you were first aware of the potential malpractice or the treatment that caused the wrongful death, and a written statement from a doctor identifying the potential malpractice or other information, witnesses and evidence surrounding the wrongful death.  Before a wrongful death or medical malpractice case can be filed, an expert in the subject field will need to be located and services paid for a determination that there was (or was not) practice below the standard of care.  The attorney can help you to find an appropriate expert.  The cost for the expert opinion varies.

If you seek assistance with a real estate matter, please note that no one in this Firm is a licensed broker.  That being said, as attorneys, there are a number of real estate matters that can be handled such as disputes (including non-litigation and litigation), contracts of any kind, transactions, closings, transfers, deeds, lien review and placement or removal.  You will want to prepare an outline of the issues, people involved, real estate involved, and lien information so that it is clear the type of assistance you will require that can be provided.

If you seek a power of attorney for some reason, then decide exactly what the power of attorney is for, the length of authority to be given, and who you trust to responsibly handle that authority.  Bring in any documents that might pertain to subject matter of the power of attorney you desire.

If you seek to establish an estate plan, you will need to bring information on your family and potential heirs (names, addresses, relationships to you).  You will also need to make a list of your assets and determine what you would like to have happen to them.  You might want to determine how you would like to proceed in the event of your death, i.e., funeral, memorial service, cremation, burial instructions.  Further considerations might be whether you want a power of attorney or a medical power of attorney (also known as a living will) and the extent to which you desire to allow your power to be shared and/or your health care plan should you become incapacitated.  If you would like your estate plan brought up to date, then please bring your current estate plan with you.

If you seek assistance with a probate matter, please bring a copy of the will (assuming there is one) and any other documentation you have regarding the probate estate.

The more information you bring with you, the easier it is for the attorney to see and understand the overall picture and how you are affected by the circumstances.  The attorney can review the documents and information and make a more knowledgeable assessment of your matter and advise you accordingly.