I was helping a family friend with construction work in a basement after last years flood in NJ. I'm not a contractor or business owner and there were no permits. She did pay me for helping/working. I have always helped around the house doing odds and ends jobs.
I never had a key to the property and she would have to let me in the side door because it would be locked. When I left she locked the door. Later that day her son unlocked the door and never locked it. A guest of the home owner was invited over and fell down the stairs, got hurt and is now suing. The home owner's insurance is now suing me in return. I have no money for a lawyer and no one will take the case for free. I'm currently unemployed and hardly surviving. I have the summons and don't know how to respond. What should I do?
Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.
That being said, I don't know which court you are in, but you must answer any complaint against you within the time period set by the court. You were likely an independent contractor, even if you were not a 'home remodeling contractor. Regardless of your status, if you were negligent, you may be held responsible. Not having enough money to hire a lawyer can lead to bad consequences, but if you don't have enough money to pay a judgment, all a plaintiff can do is try to have your possessions/real property sold off. You would likely declare bankruptcy in that case, protecting much of your limited assets.
If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or telephone number.
/Christopher E. Ezold/
The Ezold Law Firm, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004