As an attorney in multiple states (California and Louisiana) there are many overlapping rules and theory of law that are transferable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, there are many local and state wide idiosyncrasies that are not necessarily taught in law school or not easily attainable for pro se or pro per litigants. This post has some helpful tips regarding filing a law suit.
California is a jurisdiction of forms. The State Bar has gone to great lengths to make a form for just about any situation. In that same light there are many that overlap and you nearly need a law degree just to navigate through the long list. The California Courts also have very helpful information regarding the legal process and all of the different procedural devices used by lawyers.
A typical checklist for items needed when you file your civil case are 1) Complaint, 2) Civil Cover Sheet, 3) Summons, and 4) Receipt and Acknowledgement. The complaint is your main document to be filed. This is where the Plaintiff lists out all of the facts and causes of action that related to the allegations being asserted in the suit. The complaint is the lawsuit itself and will be a part of the public record. The Civil Cover Sheet is a mandatory form that needs to accompany any new filing. This tells the clerk what type of case is being filed. Next is the Summons. This document tells the court and the opposition who is being sued and what that person/entity’s legal rights are with regard to an answer. Lastly is a handy little form that I like to include called Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt. This form allows for you to mail serve the Summons and Complaint on your adversary saving time and money. If the defendant does not reply within 20 days, it will be obligated to pay for your service fees. The normal delay to respond to a suit is 30 days.
Once you get your complaint filed you will want to serve your adversary with the documents to complete the process. You can use the Notice form listed above but if that fails then you will have to hire a process server to get the suit to the defendant. Regardless of how you serve them the clerk of court requires proof of service. This too is another form, Proof of Service of Summons. This helpful form has a long check list of methods of possible service. You make sure you followed one of the statutory required methods, file your proof and then your law suit has formally begun. You then must wait for your adversary to answer.
This blog post is a part of the California Civil Procedure Series written by Wolfe Law Group. You should contact an attorney when dealing with procedure issues as there are strict time limitations which need to be followed.
As an attorney in multiple states (California and Louisiana) there are many overlapping rules and theory of law that are transferable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, there are many local and state wide idiosyncrasies that are not necessarily taught in law school or not easily attainable for pro se or pro per litigants. I felt it appropriate to do this series so that it will help individual litigants, business owners and contractors so that they have a better understanding of only some of the nuances which I have come across.
Topics That I plan to cover include, 1) basic discovery rules, deadlines and concepts; 2) a CA C.C.P. 998 offer of settlement and its impact on litigation, 3) filing and obtaining a default judgment, including CA C.C.P. 1033 declarations and letters of intent, 4) basic filing procedures for a Complaint and subsequent pleadings including proof of mailing forms.
The purpose of this series is to better educate anyone who gets involved in the legal process. There are a number of resources out there but sometimes simple tasks can be daunting in the legal industry. Other times certain jurisdictions emphasize things that are simply overlooked in others. Lastly, California has a vast network of forms that in theory set out to be helpful yet in the end can send one in a fit of confusion. I will attempt to show some helpful way to navigate that stream of information.
According to a recent Press Release from Marsh, a leader in insurance broking and risk management, construction firms across the U.S. will be facing new challenges in the upcoming year. Insurance rates have been declining for close to a decade, but rates are forecasted to increase between 8 and 10 percent. Firms with poor loss histories will receive higher rates, and some may not even be able to renew their policies.
This rise in rates is apparently the result of “soft market conditions” in recent years. Michael Anderson, Leader of Marsh’s U.S. Construction Practice, stated, “This comes against the backdrop of medical cost inflation and changes to some state statutes that have extended coverage beyond the insurers’ originally intended scope.” Mr. Anderson also goes on to explain that even with the increase in rates, the industry’s capital is still strong resulting in market conditions remaining competitive.
To read more about this Press Release and other interesting Construction Market Updates, click here.
Contractors need to be sure to stay current on all insurance so that the contractor will limit its exposure when occurrences happen. Being insured is a major expense in all construction companies. That expense will be justified when a claim is made. Insurers seek to exclude or deny coverage, therefore a good attorney will be needed to fight back. Here at Wolfe Law Group, LLC we handle situations where we work with insurers to aid our clients and other situations where we fight insurers to get them to pay our clients what they are owed under the policy.
I recently found a good article on JDSupra.com, always a great source for solid legal content, regarding California Senate Bill 474. This Bill protects subcontractors when contracting so that they cannot be held liable to indemnify the general contractor or owner from certain types of negligence. Author, Maria Giardina of Sedgwick, LLP, does a very good job of explaining the step that the California Legislature has taken to further protect the interest of subcontractors who often enter into one-sided contacts with general contractors in order to procure work in this troublesome economy.
This Bill raises a bigger and more overarching question as to why do state legislatures feel the need to make rules to restrict the freedom to contract. The legislature here is essentially trying to protect the subcontractor from itself. In a perfect world, general contract presents the subcontract document to the subcontractor, and that sub has its lawyer review the contract to see if the terms can be negotiated so that its a fair document for all involved. This new Bill, allows for subs to enter into subcontract agreements with general contractors and then after-the-fact afford the sub protections because the general contractor had a well written contract.
William M. Hill and Mary-Beth McCormack author a well written article on protecting a subcontractor from itself. This article deals with a hot construction law topic, pay-when-paid vs. pay-if-paid clauses.
It seems from the face of California Senate Bill 474 and many others like it across the country, that we are on a path toward heavy government regulation of our business relations. I understand that the little man needs protection from corporate might, but I believe that we have gone too far. Let the parties contract to whatever they want. If it goes against public policy, then the provision is void on its face. There is no need to waste taxpayer money to draft, argue, and pass bills such as these.
For more on this topic, see Gordon & Reese, LLP article and Senator Noreen Evans.
Over the past few years the California Legislature has been tinkering with its construction lien laws, both public an private. There have been numerous write-ups with commentators chiming in on whether the changes are a good thing or a bad thing. Nevertheless, many have happened and more changes are set to come shortly.
As of July 1, 2012 the governing statutes will be assigned to new numbers and a new section of the California Civil Code. Jones Day did a very comprehensive article back in January of this year outlining the changes. Here is an excerpt from the article of how the code articles are going to be changed in numbering:
“Effective July 1, 2012, the existing Mechanics Lien Law (commencing with Section 3082 of the Civil Code) will be repealed and replaced with new provisions in three titles relating to: (i) works of improvement generally (commencing with Civil Code Section 8000); (ii) private works of improvement (commencing with Civil Code Section 8170); and (iii) public works of improvement (commencing with Civil Code Section 9100).” See the full article here.
This is a big deal for contractors, lawyers and document preparation companies because the entire landscape is changing. Even if the substance of the law is the same, lawyers will tell you that words and punctuation can be very costly when left up to new interpretation.
More recently another construction law blog gave a more brief version of the new changes that have gone into and will be going into effect. Mark Budwig of Government Contracts Advisor posted these in his March 2, 2012 post.
The key here is not to panic but to embrace the changes and be the savvy contractor who knows about the changes and does not get rattled. Another important factor is to outsource trivial knowledge like this to trusted sources like an attorney or a more efficient service such as Zlien.com.