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You’ve Been Served! – by Garrison P. Carr, Associate Attorney, Decker Vonau, LLC

There is not much that induces the instant heat of panic like a certified mailing from a court. You have just been sued by someone. As you read through the lawsuit, you do not realize you are letting precious time slip by. In Ohio, a defendant shall serve his/her answer within twenty-eight (28) days after service of the summons and complaint upon him/her. Ohio Civ. R. 12. While there are some rules that allow for extensions, the longer you wait to seek counsel the less time you give competent legal counsel the opportunity to properly defend you.

I have seen plenty of unfortunate individuals make the mistake of thinking they can settle the lawsuit without the help of an attorney. Failure to follow the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure and the Ohio Rules of Evidence require can lead to disastrous results. One of those results is called default judgment. Default judgment occurs when a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules, the party entitled to a judgment by default judgment. Ohio Civ. R. 55. In the event default is entered against you, a party can freely engage in garnishment of your wages or removing money from your bank account.

Another serious issue that is especially applicable to business owners is the unauthorized practice of law. Unauthorized practice of law occurs when A person who is not admitted to the practice of law pursuant to the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar engages in the unauthorized practice of law when he or she provides legal services to another in this state. Disciplinary Counsel v. Kafele, 108 Ohio St.3d 283, 2006-Ohio-904, 843 N.E.2d 169, ¶ 14 (2006). If you own a company, these rules apply to you. Attempting to represent your company in any manner without being properly licensed in Ohio can lead to civil penalties in an amount up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) per offense. OH ST GOVT BAR Rule 7.

The great benefit of speaking with a skilled attorney is you’ll be able to quickly gain an understanding of your legal rights and responsibilities. If you need help in this area, please call me at 614-744-3108.