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Facing Your First Lawsuit? Here Are The First Steps To Take

Closeup of a desk with the scales of justice; a man in business attire is flipping pages in a legal text on the desk with his left hand, has gavel raised to tap in his right.

If your company is facing a lawsuit for the first time, you are likely in unfamiliar territory. Most people, including business owners, are not very knowledgeable about the various stages of a lawsuit, let alone what they should do if they are being sued. Developing a basic understanding of the legal process involved in a lawsuit, the steps you should take if you are named as the defendant in a lawsuit, and what to expect in such situations, can help you approach this potentially nerve-wracking experience with poise and confidence. For more information about dealing with a first lawsuit, contact the law firm of Schwab & Gasparini by calling us at one of the following locations: Syracuse Office (315) 422-1333, Albany Office (518) 591-4664, White Plains Office (914) 304-4353, Hudson Valley (914) 304-4353.

How a Lawsuit Starts

A civil lawsuit generally has two parties: a plaintiff and a defendant. The plaintiff is the one making the claim, and the defendant is the party resisting these claims. 

The Complaint 

The lawsuit will begin when the plaintiffs file a complaint against the defendant. According to the Legal Information Institute, the purpose of this document is to explain why the plaintiff is suing the defendant and detail the specific remedy the plaintiff is hoping to obtain. Lawsuits frequently seek monetary damages (payments to compensate for losses the plaintiff claims to have experienced as a result of the defendant’s actions or inactions), but they may also be filed to seek injunctive relief (getting the court to order the defendant to stop the activity the plaintiff considers damaging).

The Summons 

The summons explains to the defendant that a lawsuit has been filed and the time frame within which the defendant has to respond to the complaint. This document will usually need to be served on the defendant by hand, but it can also be mailed, depending on the circumstances and type of case it is. The New York State Unified Court System lays out strict guidelines that must be followed to ensure that the legal requirements for “service of process” (the delivery of summons or other important case documents) are met. 

Defendant’s Answer

After the defendant receives the summons and complaint, they will have the right to respond to it. However, defendants must file a response before the deadline established in the summons. Otherwise, the court will enter a default judgment against them. 

A defendant’s answer will usually include the defendant’s version of the facts of the case. The defendant may also take this opportunity to deny or admit to the statements made by the plaintiff. This document can also raise any appropriate counterclaims against the plaintiff. 

The Discovery Phase

During the “discovery,” both sides will be able to gather evidence to help them develop strategies for litigation. Various tools can be used during this time to help the parties gather the documents that are needed, as well as investigate the facts. These tools include the following:

  • Depositions
  • Interrogatories
  • Requests for production


During the discovery phase and in some cases even after it has been completed, the parties will often have to go in front of a judge to ask for assistance regarding the production of certain types of evidence or witnesses. They may even try to obtain different types of relief, which can end the lawsuit. Motions are the documents filed by the parties, or by their attorneys if the parties are working with professional legal counsel, to ask the court for the specific relief they need.


Generally speaking, both parties will continue trying to reach a settlement throughout the discovery process, rather than having to go to the trouble and expense of a trial. However, a trial may be necessary if a settlement cannot be reached between the parties. If a trial proves necessary, this step of the process tends to require extensive preparation, and the parties will present their case in front of either a jury or a judge, who will decide on the case. 

While the foregoing are the general steps involved in a lawsuit, additional issues may arise during this legal process. Therefore, to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the legal process involved in a first lawsuit, consider consulting with an experienced New York business litigation lawyer at Schwab & Gasparini.

The First Steps To Take When Facing Your First Lawsuit

Although dealing with a lawsuit can be stressful, it is crucial to understand that you have options and steps to protect yourself. Being aware of your options can help you to make informed decisions on behalf of your business. 

Do Not Throw Anything Away

If a lawsuit has been filed against you, one of the first things you want to do is preserve all the documents you have and anything else you may believe will be helpful to your situation. This can include voicemails, letters, text messages, videos, pictures, spreadsheets, and even social media posts. Do not destroy or delete any of these things or allow anyone else to do so, either. 

Contact an Experienced New York Lawyer

If you are facing your first lawsuit, consider reaching out to a skilled and experienced New York litigation lawyer as soon as you can. These legal professionals may be able to help you understand the rights you have regarding this lawsuit and come up with a strategy to defend these rights. Depending on the circumstances, these attorneys may also be able to represent you in court or help you pursue a settlement by negotiating on your behalf. 

Bring With You All the Documents You Have When Meeting With the Lawyer

If you do meet with an attorney to discuss your case, bring to your first meeting everything you have related to the case, including any relevant documents, such as letters, text messages, emails, and court papers. These documents may be able to help the attorney analyze your case and determine how to proceed with the lawsuit.

Ask Questions About the Lawsuit

During your consultation with an attorney, you will also want to ask questions about the lawsuit. A lawyer experienced in New York business litigation may be able to help you better understand the basis of the lawsuit, including who the plaintiff is and the nature and severity of the allegations. By understanding these details, you can be better prepared to take the next steps in the process.

Find Appropriate Evidence

Once you have consulted with a legal professional, it will be time to start gathering evidence to help your case. This evidence can include everything from witness statements to certain types of emails, receipts, and contracts. 

Contact Schwab & Gasparini Today To Go Over Your Legal Options

If you are facing your first lawsuit and want further information about the legal options you and your business have or the steps involved in the process, a contact with an experienced business attorney may help you find peace of mind. Contact the law firm of Schwab & Gasparini by calling us at one of the following locations: Syracuse Office (315) 422-1333, Albany Office (518) 591-4664, White Plains Office (914) 304-4353, Hudson Valley (914) 304-4353.


Sun Feb 4 2024, 12:00am