I came downstairs to find a hand-delivered notice from the Constable at the Sheriff’s office notifying me that I had been sued! Talk about a shock! I had no clue this was coming and hadn’t had any interaction with the plantiff (the dude suing me) for over 6 months!
Immediately my heart started racing, thoughts and images of a dramatic courtroom scene started playing in my mind, and worse yet (due to lack of knoweldge on these matters) I envisioned long drawn-out legal proceedings whereby I’d lose all of my properties and possibly go to jail. I guess I’ve watched one too many episodes of Boston Legal. What a great way to start a Tuesday morning, eh? The good news is… I was only being sued for a little over $9,400 – hardly something that threatens life as I know it, but still it was something I did NOT want to pay!
So the first thing I did was nothing. That’s right. For about a week, I did nothing about the matter, even though my court date was only 13 days from when I received the notice. I believe that is called procrastination, is it not? Then, after a kick in the butt, (thanks Dad!) I started ransacking my files from this transaction that had taken place in October, 2010, printed out all sorts of emails, obtained letters of testimony from key witnesses, affidavits, and on and on the list of evidence goes. The good news was that the more I put together my defense, the more confident I was that I’d win!
Four days prior to the court date, I bought my attorney a couple drinks (it’s amazing the free legal advice a couple $8 drinks will get you!) I showed him my work – all my evidence and arguments. His response: “Wow! That’s a better job than I would have done. Where did you go to school?” My response: “Montco. For a year, part-time.” He gave me a few pointers and four days later I was off to court with a little less than 200 pages of evidence to prove my innocence!
Now, on to the main point of this article… The biggest lesson this experience taught me was to know before you get sued how you would defend yourself if that deal/transaction went to litigation. You ask what I mean by that. What I mean is that even though I won this case and had over-whelming evidence that proved my innocence, when I got the notice that I had been sued, I didn’t even know if I was innocent, let alone how I was going to prove it. You can bet your bottom dollar that every single deal I do from this point forward will have air-tight and explicit language in all its paperwork and that every deal will be closed with an attorney. I realize that this might seem like I’m stating the obvious, but this experience taught me the importance of GOOD contracts, and it taught me a LOT about how to think “worst case” scenario and how to prevent such a scenario from occurring.
Do I really think you should or hope that you do get sued? Of course not! But one thing I know for sure, and that is if you do enter into litigation, you will be a lot more cautious and careful in how you conduct business from that point forward.
P.S. – The plantiff didn’t even show up to court, so I won by default without even having to present my case! I was rather disappointed!
To your SUCCESS,
Jim “JimmyZ” Zaspel