One of the steps to filing a civil lawsuit involves giving legal notice of the lawsuit to the other party.  Serving a legal notice notifies the other party that you are suing them, gives them the reasons why you are suing them, and provides the other side with the legal basis upon which you filed the lawsuit.  The other party then has a certain time period to respond, usually 30 days.

Legal notices are a vital principal of the courts providing fairness and due process by giving all parties affected by the lawsuit or legal proceeding notice of the legal procedure. No party can operate in secret and all court actions must be apparent to all parties to the case.

What Is a Legal Notice in a Lawsuit?

A legal notice is a lawsuit is a notice or petition by the court stating that the court is preparing to litigate a lawsuit against the defendant. The court begins this process by personally serving the affected defendant with the complaint and petition, together with a summons or order to appear in court (or to file an answer to complaint). Thereafter, the defendant will be deemed to have notice of the lawsuit and failure to appear or answer will allow the plaintiff to enter default judgment

Who Should Read Legal Notices?

The party being served with the lawsuit (sometimes called “the respondent” or “defendant”) is the person who should read the legal notice. This is because this person is being sued and therefore their rights may be affected.

Why Do Legal Notices Exist, and Why Are They Useful?

One of the simplest reasons to understand why legal notices are used deals with fairness.  For a lawsuit to proceed, it is simple to understand that the party being sued needs to be notified that they are being sued.  From here on, this party can then do the necessary steps to defend themselves, i.e. hire an attorney and decide how to respond to the notice of the lawsuit.

Legal notices therefore are extremely important.  They inform a party that they are being sued and serve as an indication that this party now needs to take action to defend him of herself.

Who Should Read Legal Notices?

The party being served with the lawsuit (sometimes called “the respondent”) is the person who should read the legal notice.  This is because this person is being sued and therefore their rights may be affected. Once a legal notice is read, the defendant given notice must either appear in court to defendant the suit or answer the complaint that was served.

How Is Legal Notice Served?

There are a number of ways a legal notice can be validly served, or given to the other party. The plaintiff, the party seeking to sue someone, can have any adult, not a party to the case serve the complaint. The preferred methods for personal service are either through a police officer or a professional serving company. Aside from personal service, certified first-class mail is also a valid option in some jurisdictions. All notices should be given at the defendant’s last known address.

The notices must be given at the defendant’s personal residence to a person over the age of sixteen. If the defendant already has an attorney though, the notice should be given to the attorney’s office. If no one is at home or at the attorney’s office, the notice should be left in a conspicuous location. Multiple service attempts should be made if it was unclear whether the defendant received the notice.

What Information Should a Legal Notice Provide?

The legal notice must contain:

  • Name of the parties and the court resolving the dispute
  • Name and address of plaintiff and any attorneys the plaintiff has
  • Time the defendant should appear at court
  • Notice that failure to appear at the prearranged time will result in a default judgment against the defendant (the plaintiff automatically wiLs)
  • The court’s seal and a clerk’s signature

If the Respondent Already Knows About the Impending Lawsuit, Do I Still Have To Give Notice?

Yes. Procedural law is about following the proper procedures, even if the actual need for those procedures were already fulfilled. Even if the respondent is aware that a lawsuit is pending, proper notice must still be given so that the respondent cannot claim that he or she didn’t know about the lawsuit.

It is also possible that even though the respondent knows that a lawsuit is coming, the respondent might not know the exact claims or the exact time and date that the hearings will begin. In order to ensure fairness, such relevant information must also be given.

If I Can’t Find the Respondent, Can I Still Continue the Lawsuit?

Yes. The respondent isn’t required to actually know about the lawsuit. The plaintiff is only required to make every reasonable effort to give legal notice to the respondent. Once every reasonable option has been exhausted, the plaintiff may continue in the lawsuit regardless of whether the respondent actually knows about the suit.

If the respondent fails to appear in court, the plaintiff automatically wins (default judgment).

Where Can You Find Legal Notices?

A simple answer is that you can find a legal notice at your attorney’s office!  Legal notices are usually drafted by legal personnel.  Civil attorney and legal staff study a cl
ient’s case and then draft a legal notice accordingly.  Such a notice is then usually showed to the client before being sent out to the other party.

However, in this day in age with the Internet, certain websites educate people on how to draft a particular type of legal notice.  Depending on the type of legal suit or proceeding you are in need of, can provide you with the information you need.