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Answering to a small claims suit

Placentia, CA |
Filed under: Sole proprietorship

My company ( a sole proprietorship) is being sued as the second defendant in a small claims suit. My company (which consists of myself) has never had any type of business dealings with the plaintiff. He is suing for commission and expenses claimed due from another corporation (the first defendant) that occurred prior to when my husband and I purchased the corporation. The other corporation is an entirely different company. Is there an answer I can file to dissmiss my company from this suit? Also, none of the summons were ever signed by the plaintiff.

The claim is also not signed by the plaintiff. His signature appears nowhere on the documents. Signature lines are blank. Also, can he include the other sole proprietorship in this suit when there were no business dealings with it?

Attorney Answers 3


If you purchased the first corporation, then you may have bought all their assets _and_ their liabilities, so you may be on the hook for what they (allegedly) owe the plaintiff. If the plaintiff is asking for a significant amount, it's probably worth consulting an attorney to figure out what's your best strategy. Take the sale contract and other documents that show your purchase of the corporation (along with any documents you've been served in the suit). Do this quickly: once you've been served, you have to respond before the deadline or the plaintiff will get a default judgment against you.

It's been a few years since I did litigation in California, but I think the summons is supposed to be signed by the court clerk (after the plaintiff files the suit). The plaintiff would serve you with the summons and complaint, and then sign and file a proof of service with the court. So it's possible that you'd have an unsigned proof of service document attached to the summons and complaint -- the plaintiff or process server can't truthfully sign it before they serve it! The complaint should be signed by the plaintiff.

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The answer to your first question: No, you have to appear in court to defend yourself.

The answer to your second question: Routinely, most court clerks re-type any Form SC-100 (Complaint) that is given to them by a plaintiff. Usually, the court will keep a copy of the form with the signature on it. You will then be served a copy without the signature, or it will have a stamp on it that states something to the effect of "Signature on File."

Not sure if this helps. Please feel free to contact me for further discussions.

-Adam Jaffe
Law Office of Adam Jay Jaffe
PO Box 2437
Camarillo, CA 93011-2437
(805) 504-2223

This posting is provided for “information purposes” only and should not be relied upon as "legal advice". Nothing transmitted from this posting constitutes the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. Applicability of the legal principles discussed here may differ substantially in individual situations or in different states.

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The first thing you need to do if and when you get sued is file an Answer. The summons will tell you that you must “appear” by way of an Answer in 10, 20 or 30 days, “depending on the method of service.”

You need a lawyer, but if you cannot afford one right away, rather then do nothing and have a judgment entered against you, is to “appear” by filing something!

Many people think this means they have to go to Court and this is incorrect. 90% of all lawsuits end in Default Judgments because the defendant (person getting sued) did not file an Answer.

I recommend you go to the free form I have on my website. Print it out and fill it out as instructed. You must answer the numbered paragraphs on the Complaint by writing them into the appropriate lines in the Answer. The Answer will allow you to preserve your rights and will prohibit a default judgment (i.e. you did not show up) from being entered against you.

Mimic the paperwork you got when you got sued. Answer all the paragraphs of the Complaint by writing the numbers in lines 1, 2 or 3.

Almost 100% of attorneys will deny what is owed because they did not do the calculations and do not know what the basis for the number is…

When you file the Answer that is your “not guilty”. You have the right to make the person suing you (Plaintiff) prove their case, but you must also answer the complaint truthfully.

Make sure you fill in the name and address of the attorney suing you before you bring this paperwork to the Court. Mail it to the attorney suing you right away!

Check out the guide I have drafted on the Avvo profile. This will provide more detailed instructions. If it is helpful remember to indicate that and get the guide read!

Good Luck!

Disclaimer: This answer does not constitute legal advice. I am admitted in the States of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts only and make no attempt to opine on matters of law that are not relevant to those three States. This advice is based on general principles of law that may or may not relate to your specific situation. Facts and laws change and these possible changes will affect the advice provided here. Consult an attorney in your locale before you act on any of this advice. You should not rely on this advice alone and nothing in these communications creates an attorney client relationship. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author only and the fact that he has worked as an Assistant District Attorney; State Supreme Court Clerk; Special Assistant United States Attorney (Hawaii); Assistant Cornell University Counsel or Judge Advocate, United States Marine Corps should not be relied upon to assume that these statements reflect the policy of these organizations.

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