The danger of fumbling lawsuit paperwork: a case study

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

When facing a lawsuit, nothing kills your defense faster than ignoring the paperwork that automatically comes with the territory. While many employment lawsuits may be frivolous, make sure you retain counsel and respond to every piece of paper served on you. Create a flow sheet and track court deadlines.

Otherwise, a frivolous suit could explode into a major award ... and egg on your face.

Recent case: Waitress Kristie Hornsby sued the Three Dollar Cafe and three managers, claiming they racially discriminated against her by refusing to promote her to bartender and then firing her.

After litigation began, the attorney who represented the cafe and managers withdrew from the case. Two of the managers hired new attorneys, but the cafe and one manager didn’t.

Hornsby then asked for a default judgment. The court granted her request, which essentially said the Three Dollar Cafe was liable because it didn’t put up a defense. The court will now hold a hearing to set the damages, but the cafe won’t have any opportunity to show it didn’t discriminate. (Hornsby v. Three Dollar Cafe, et al., No. 1:03-CV-1668, ND GA, 2006)

Final tip: A default judgment is almost a blank check. That’s why you should always take every legal paper to an attorney right away. 

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