I think the problem is, we learn a lot of things in life, but so far as I know, nobody in high school teaches you how to deal with the legal system (except to hope that you don't get arrested in your youthful exuberance).
There's way too many possible situations to cover in detail, so let me boil it down for you into one simple, fail-safe rule:
If you get a letter FROM a lawyer or a summons or threatening letter from a court or government agency, call a real, licensed attorney and ask how to respond.
If you instead try to take a crash course on Internet Law School or Facebook Law School or wait until you realize you are in over your head, you may easily wait yourself into a much more expensive or even dangerous class of problem. If you can't afford a complete consultation with an attorney, call the Oregon State Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 800-42-7636; they offer brief (1/2 hour or so) consults for just $35.
Like bullies and illnesses, lawsuits can be ignored, but they won’t go away. Denise Norton learned this valuable lesson the hard way this week when she found out that a lawsuit she has tried to ignore could wind up costing Norton her North Seattle home. . . .
“In my head, everything was so bogus that he’d been doing, I don’t know why, I just didn’t think it was real or something,” Norton told the local ABC News affiliate, KOMO-TV. That’s why, even when she was served with papers, Norton simply didn’t respond.
Unfortunately for Norton, however, the suit was very real, and because she didn’t challenge her neighbor’s claims, Thompson — who has not spoken to the press — won $500,000 by default.
“The sheriff comes, puts the papers on the garage and the wall and everything and saying they were going to put the house up for sale,” Norton said. Now she and her family are fighting to reverse the decision — spending a good chunk of their savings on lawyers — before they lose their home.
Mike Fandel, a civil attorney unrelated to the case, explained to KOMO-TV that winning a frivolous lawsuit is easy when the other side doesn’t respond. Getting the case dismissed now that a judgment has been made, on the other hand, will be a challenge.
“If you think it ought to be dismissed, it will only be dismissed if you ask the court to do it,” Fandel said. Norton acknowledges her mistake and is determined to fix it.