What You Should Do if You are Served with a Subpoena in a Civil Lawsuit
DON'T IGNORE a subpoena.You should not ignore a subpoena, even if you don't know what the lawsuit is about or you think you have no information concerning the lawsuit. The failure to respond to a subpoena could be deemed contempt of court.
READ the subpoena completely.A subpoena can require you to do one or more things. It can require you to produce or allow inspection of documents or other things in your possession. It can require you to go to court to give testimony in a trial. It can require you to go to a specified place to give a "deposition" (testimony given under oath, but not at trial). Or it can require you to do some combination of these things. Make sure you know EXACTLY what you are being asked to do, and where, and when. If you are unsure, you may consider calling the person who issued the subpoena (usually a lawyer for one of the parties) -- but remember, they don't represent YOU. The best course if you are uncertain is usually to call your own lawyer.
LEARN YOUR RIGHTS to avoid undue burden or expense.Responding to a subpoena can sometimes be time-consuming or expensive. A lawyer issuing a subpoena has a duty to take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense. In many cases, you are entitled to a "witness fee" to reimburse your mileage or compensate for other expenses, such as lodging and meals. In federal court and in many state courts (like Washington), the fine print on the subpoena will spell out certain steps you can take to protect yourself if you believe that the subpoena is unreasonably burdensome -- review that information carefully. Consider going to the court's website and reviewing online resources (in federal court and in the Washington state courts, the applicable rule is Civil Rule 45). And, again, it's often a good idea to consult with an attorney of your own.