What Happens When You Ignore a Legal Notice

For Doug Costello, the trouble began in 2009. That was the year the 66-year-old man living in Massachusetts sold his used, black-and-white printer on Craigslist. Costello made $30 on the sell that would eventually end up costing him more than $30,000. The reason? According to the buyer, the machine didn’t work. So he sued.[1]

What began in small claims court eventually made its way to the court of appeals in Indiana, where the buyer lived. When the case finally did come to a close more than six years after the initial transaction, the court awarded the buyer a judgment of more than $30,000. Even the judge admitted the amount seemed high. But then, he said, his hands were tied: Costello failed to respond three separate requests for admissions, and therefore admitted to the charges by default.[2]

A legal notice is like back pain—the longer you ignore it, the worse it gets. I’ve witnessed this over and over the course of my career representing individuals and businesses. The reasons vary: Some don’t realize the document targets them. Others figure if they don’t do anything about it, the case can’t carry on. And others just don’t know what to do, so they just ignore it hoping the problem will go away on its own. However, one of the best ways to avoid a lawsuit or other legal issues is to respond to all legal notices.

These notices may take a variety of different forms, including:

  • A subpoena
  • A Writ of Garnishment
  • A Complaint (which begins a civil lawsuit)
  • Notices on delinquent bills
  • A Notice to Quit (eviction action)
  • Default Notices

The list goes on and on. All require a response, or at least some consideration and analysis on how to proceed. Some of these documents can require a response within a matter of days. A failure to respond to legal notices can result in late fees, penalties, accrued interest, fines by the court, and possibly a judgment against you or your business, which in turn could lead to wage garnishments and judgment liens. A little proactive response can prevent a minor issue from blowing up in to a major problem.

If you or someone you know has received a legal notice and is unsure how to proceed, do not hesitate to contact me directly. I would be happy to walk you through the nature of the document as well as any action associated with it.

Skoubye, Nielson, Johansen Attorneys Salt Lake City Utah

Kevin Bischoff

[1] http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2016/06/06/man-sued-30k-over-40-printer-he-sold-craigslist/85478168/

[2] Ibid.