Even if you have done everything right and taken every possible precaution, there may come a time when you are sued or receive a legal threat. The first thing you should do is take a deep breath and assess the situation.
First, determine what type of legal threat you received. Most legal threats come in the form of a letter or email. Typically, the letter or email will demand that you cease whatever activity is being complained about and desist from engaging in the conduct in the future. If you receive such a letter or email, you should carefully check to see if the correspondence includes an attachment that bears the name of a court or otherwise resembles a complaint or legal filing. Consult the following examples to determine what type of threat you've received:
- Examples of cease-and-desist letters and email: Stutz Artiano Letter, DirectBuy Letter, Best Buy Letter, Goldman Letter, Diebold Letter, Strahl Email, and Dreamworks Email.
- Examples of lawsuit complaints that should help you determine whether you have been sued: Mayhew Complaint, Ronson Complaint, and Pivar Complaint.
- Examples of subpoenas that should help you determine whether you have been served with a subpoena: Earthlink Subpoena, AutoAdmit Subpoena, Tice Subpoena, and IBM Subpoena.
Second, weigh your options as to how to respond. It is imperative that you DO NOT DELAY. Even if you have only received a threatening letter or email and have not been sued, you should take the threat seriously and review the Responding to Correspondence Threatening Legal Action section of this guide to help you formulate a response. If you receive a lawsuit or subpoena, you should review the Responding to Lawsuits or Responding to Subpoenas sections of this guide to determine how to respond.
Third, consider hiring a lawyer or seeking legal self-help. Even if you believe the legal threat you've received is meritless, it is best not to minimize the situation. Do not assume that the threatening party will simply go away. Speaking to a lawyer, even if it is only a phone call, or doing some legal research can help to set your mind at ease and get you started on the right path to deal with the legal threat. See our Finding Legal Help section for some guidance.