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We were sued, not notified, then found guilty as we were not in court to defend the claims. How is this legal?

Brooklyn, NY |

How can a court case proceed without proof that the defendant was notified? This seems ludicrous. Now nearly a year after the court case, we have been served with papers to attend a hearing regarding what I can only imagine to be payment. Can someone please explain the process?

The details of the case was that someone alleged to have fell in front of our commercial property and broke their leg. There isn't any record of an ambulance being called, nor were we notified or aware of the event previously. They apparently sent paperwork for the initial court hearing to both us and the adjacent property, whom they are also suing. Neither of us received such paperwork. As an obvious result, neither defendants were at the case, yet it proceeded anyway! Is this some sort of dodgy tactic?

Attorney Answers 4

Posted

I highly recommend you discuss your situation with a New York litigation attorney (if you do not have one) in a confidential forum as soon as possible as there may have been a Default Judgment granted against you. You may still have time to file a Motion to Vacate Default Judgment, but the allowed time is running and may have already expired.

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Asker

Posted

If there was a default judgement granted, would this be stated somewhere in this paperwork we were sent? There must be hundreds of pages here. Where can I look? There are many aspects to this and I am confused as to how to proceed a) why have we not received notice of this sooner b) did the fall actually occur in front of our property/what is the proof. What is the best type of lawyer to hire for this situation? Is a litigation attorney a specific kind of lawyer? Should I be seeking advice from someone who specializes in slips and falls?

Edwin Drantivy

Edwin Drantivy

Posted

You need to obtain your court file from the court listed at the top of the court papers. If you do not have an index number, you can go to the court and search the computer system by your name or company name. If, after reviewing your file, you still wish to consult with an attorney, you may call my firm at (718) 375-3750 to schedule a consultation. Either way, you absolutely need counsel as soon as possible, no matter which counsel you choose. Good luck!

Posted

Notify your insurance carrier immediately. You can make an application to the court to vacate the default judgment, but you need to make your insurance company aware or they may disclaim any liability to pay.

I am not your attorney and any posts/messages or responses to posts/messages can not establish an attorney-client relationship. www.PatchogueAttorney.com You should not rely upon free legal advice and I disclaim any liability for the results if you do.

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Posted

Unfortunately, the property is not insured so the liability rests with us. Does a lawyer need to make an application to the court to vacate the default judgement, or is this something that we can do? Also, there is a mountain of papers here, so where would it be stated whether a default judgement was made and what it is?

Paul Karl Siepmann

Paul Karl Siepmann

Posted

You would be much better off retaining an attorney than trying to do this yourself. If the property is owned or you were sued in a corporate capacity, you will have to retain an attorney as corporations can only appear in court by an attorney. If you can't determine the status of the case from the papers you have, you can try calling or asking in person at the courthouse. In any event, you really should at least seek a consultation with a local litigation attorney. They will be able to give you sound advice after reviewing your documents.

Asker

Posted

Thank you for the advice. Is a litigation attorney a specialist lawyer? Should I seek out someone with experience in slips and falls or a property lawyer? Who is the best suited for this?

Posted

You were allegedly served and defaulted. You can move to vacate the judgment, ask for a traverse hearing, etc. However, you should obtain a copy of the court file first and then meet with a lawyer, since s/he will have to review the affidavit of service and perform a legal autopsy and hopefully breathe new life into your case.

If you found this "helpful" or "best answer," please click it with my appreciation. My response is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice nor creates an attorney client relationship which requires all the details and a personal conference.

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Posted

Dear Property owner:

No lawsuit is allowed to proceed to a judgment by default without the court reviewing the plaintiff's proof that service of the summons and complaint was made as required by law. That does not mean that a process server may not fib in the affidavit of service, but does answer your concern about how this could happen. New York courts have multiple layers of requirements before allowing a matter to proceed to a default. An hearing in your absence ( an inquest) may have occurred.

With an owner having direct liability for all injuries occurring on the property including the sidewalk, you either insure or you become your own insurance company. Unless you are fantastically wealthy self-insurance is an easy route to losing your property to a stranger who happens to fall or claims to fall on the sidewalk at your property.

You need a lawyer. If the default occurred over one year ago there may be serious time issues involved but in any case you no longer have time to chat about this serious matter in an online forum, you need an attorney, now.

Good luck.

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

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Asker

Posted

Thank you for the advice. Can you also advise what type of lawyer I should seek out who would be best suited for this? One who specializes in slip and falls or perhaps a property lawyer?

Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Warren Smollens

Posted

OK. i am not a legal referrer. But AVVO does list all sorts of attorneys with skills needed to deal with this.

Asker

Posted

I understand your position, but I am only asking for advice on what type of lawyer to seek out, not a specific name. Is a personal injury lawyer, who are usually on the plaintiff's side, the appropriate people to contact? Can they handle these default judgement situations?

Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Warren Smollens

Posted

OK. I just told you I cannot steer you to an attorney but informed you where you could look. All real lawyers know how to deal with litigation issues. Attorneys specializing in defense of PI claims usually work for an insurance carrier, as most often that is where the money is.

Asker

Posted

Makes sense. I will make a few phone calls and hope that if I ring someone who is not appropriate, then they will be forthright with me. Thanks again.

Steven Warren Smollens

Steven Warren Smollens

Posted

OK. Good luck.

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