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  • Writer's pictureKyle Persaud

When a civil lawsuit threatens me, what should I do?

Don’t worry

First, a word from the Bible: Philippians 4:6 says,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

And Jesus said,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:25-34).

These Scriptural principles work well in life, and especially when you receive a litigation threat. Many people threaten litigation just to scare others, knowing that people who are in fear are easier to control.

Many threats of litigation are baseless

Many people threaten litigation even if they know full well that they cannot win a lawsuit, and even though they don’t really plan on filing a lawsuit. If someone threatens to file suit against you, their threat may not be realistic. If you are unsure whether someone has grounds to sue you, you may want to speak to an attorney to see if their threat is realistic.

You don’t have to respond to someone unless they actually sue you and serve you with the summons

A few months ago, I had a client ask me, “Someone sent me a letter saying I owe them money – how should I respond to them?” I told him that he did not need to respond at all.

In Oklahoma you generally must file a response with the court clerk within twenty days after the plaintiff serves you with a summons. In the federal court system, your deadline to file a response with the court clerk is twenty-one days.

But if you have not been served with a summons, you don’t have to respond. So if someone threatens to sue you, it may be best to completely ignore them.

Sometimes, however, it’s best to respond to them and work out an agreement

If the person has a valid claim against you, your best bet may be to see if you can work out an agreement with them before they actually sue you. Another Biblical principle is at work here:

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:25-26).

Recently a person threatened to sue one of my clients, and their threat seemed to have some legitimacy. So, I drafted a proposed agreement and sent it to the other side’s lawyer. If the other side accepts the agreement, my client may be able to avoid a difficult lawsuit.

If you want to respond to a legal threat, you may be able to do it yourself, or you may prefer to have a lawyer write a response. Use your best judgment as to what you think is best.

If you believe that the other person’s claim is groundless, you may tell them so

If the person has no valid claim against you, don’t be afraid to tell them that their claim is not valid. Sometimes if you do this, they will quit contacting you.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) says that if the person sending you threats is a “debt collector”, you may tell them that you do not intend to pay the debt. You may also tell them to cease all communication with you. If you tell a debt collector that you refuse to pay the debt, or if you tell them to stop communicating with you, a debt collector must cease communication. Read this section of the FDCPA here. Because the FDCPA is federal law, it applies throughout the United States.

The FDCPA defines “debt collector” as “any person who uses any instrumentality of interstate commerce or the mails in any business the principal purpose of which is the collection of any debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or due or asserted to be owed or due another.”

Have you been threatened with a lawsuit? Contact the Persaud Law Office

At the Persaud Law Office, we’ve helped many people who’ve faced legal threats. If someone has threatened you with a lawsuit, we may be able to assist you. Contact us today.



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