Sued! You’ve just been sued or received a Letter of Demand. What should you do now?
- Being sued, receiving a visit from the Sheriff, receiving a lawyers letter or a summons can be a nerve wrecking time. However, if the matter has come this far, you should seek adequate, trustworthy legal advice. Ignoring these things can lead to judgments being taken in your absence, your goods being removed by the Sheriff or in certain instances, even criminal charges being laid (eg certain maintenance matters are also criminal).
- In the short summary below, we will mostly use the form “he”, but please note this may apply equally to women and men alike and is merely to set out the process, not to make any particular reference to any gender specifically.
So, how does it work and how do we get your side to be heard?
- The first step should be to make an appointment with your attorney.
- Your attorney would advise whether to Respond formally to a letter, Defend the Summons or bring Applications to set Default Judgments aside (depending on your unique circumstances and set of facts). What is important to realize is that time is of the essence. Court Procedures usually have a set time for certain procedures to be followed by both the Plaintiff and the Defendant. Leaving things to the last minute may severely hamper your case.
- Remember, that if a Plaintiff believes you owe him a duty or money etc, he/she may elect to sue you for this. This is a right given to any Plaintiff. We are all familiar with the term “innocent until proven guilty”. This means that he/she has the right to tell court his reasons why he believes you owe him/her whatever it is they are claiming of you.
- However, you also have the right to defend the matter and put your version of events forward.
- You may also have a counter-claim for a debt/duty you believe that the Plaintiff owes you.
- It is important to obtain adequate legal advice before ignoring something or putting to paper words that may be taken out of context or can be wrongly construed. In particular, always think twice before signing an Acknowledgment of Debt or Settlement Agreement without first obtaining legal opinion on the document and the relevant circumstances.
- Many matters may be amicably resolved by cooler heads prevailing, alternative dispute resolution, round-table meetings etc. If however, given the unique circumstances of your matter, these avenues are unavailable, you would need to put your version before court, within the court mandated time periods, so that a court can make a decision as to whose version of events is more likely.
- In order to put your version before a Court you would need to Defend the matter via the Court formulated Procedure and then may Answer any claim or claims against you via a Formal Plea and may even include a Counter-Claim.
- Once the various formal procedures of Court have been complied with, the matter will be set for Hearing or Trial. Witnesses will be called and a judgement will be made on the evidence before the Court.
Please note that this article is not intended to be a crash-course law degree or supplement years of legal experience. As your matter progresses, your attorney should be in contact periodically to give more detailed updates as to which point in the procedure your matter is etc.
Contact us today to set up your consultation at https://www.hamelattorneys.co.za/contact/ or on 012 754 3385. Our consultations may be done in person (after lock-down) or at any time, with set appointment online via Skype.