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I am a small business owner being sued in District Court in Florida by a delivery driver hired as an Independent Contractor.

Tampa, FL |

the individual signed a I/C agreement but is suing for unpaid overtime wages. I cannot afford an Attorney and am being told if I do not they will get a default Judgement against me. Legal Aide will not represent a company. Is there anything I can do to represent myself or is there any assistance for a small business.

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Attorney answers 5


Unfortunately if your business is a corporation, you will need to retain counsel to represent the corporation in court. The status of your independent contractor may not be as simple as looking at the agreement, although that will certainly be relevant. Many other factors will be considered based upon the business, the job and the work performed by the individual and the manner in which they are compensated. unfortunately, without an attorney, your company will be defaulted and lose its ability to defend the case.

While you don't want to hear this, you need an attorney as soon as possible to defend the claims.



I agree with my colleague. Your company will need an attorney. You may want to call a few attorneys and see if they will offer a payment plan that you can afford. Many attorneys on here, including myself, offer free initial consultations. Best of luck!

Natalie Guerra-Valdes

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I agree with these answers. But is this case in small claims court? FL Small Claims Rule 7.050(a)(2) states in relevant part that, "A corporation may be represented at any stage of the trial court proceedings by an officer of the corporation or any employee authorized in writing by an officer of the corporation." Check out the rules below. Even if you can represent the company in court, you will want to submit an answer with defenses (or motion for enlargement of time) within the time frame or the Plaintiff will still be able to get a default against you. If you don't know how to file an Answer or if the other side has an attorney, you should probably have one too. Good luck.

This answer is general legal information and does not constitute specific legal advice. For specific legal advice, please contact a licensed attorney.


Generally, a legal entity must be represented by counsel. If the matter is
a small claims matter there can be some exceptions. Otherwise, you must
seek legal counsel.


Firstly, as my colleagues have already indicated, you cannot represent your company unless the action is filed in Small Claims Court. If the action is filed against the company, your company will need legal representation to defend the action. Under employment law however, unpaid wages claims may also be filed against the principal individually. If you were named personally as an individual party, then you may be able to defend yourself personally pro se, but the Court will still enter in a default against the company if you do not retain counsel. As far as the answer on the contract matter, even if you titled the contract for an independent contractor, and defined the engagement as an independent contractor, the evidence may show that the agency is sufficient to constitute an employment if he is claiming a breach of the employment agreement. If you were withholding taxes on the I/C, then that may present evidence that the scope of the agency was by employment rather than independent contractor. I am assuming that the attorney who filed the action against you for unpaid wages must have found some legal basis to state a claim for unpaid wages of his or her client, the person you state is an IC. I would suggest that you find a defense attorney in your local area, as that would inherently keep the costs down to defend the action compared to retaining counsel well outside of Tampa, Florida. Unfortunately, you are in a bind in that regard, but not retaining counsel will guarantee a judgment against you, and based on what you mention in the limited information provided in your inquiry, you may have valid defenses that could shorten the scope and reduce the expense of your defense greatly dependent upon the four corners of what is included in that complaint filed against you. Most attorneys consult for free, so my advise is to find a local counsel who is familiar with employment law that can assist you by offering a free consultation to at least advise you as to where you stand so you are in a better position to understand the scope of the action filed against you and what options you may have to defend the case through legal counsel. Every firm is different, and there are a ton of attorneys out there, so you have optoins as to what firm you ultimately hire based on your needs and budget.

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