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Summons and Complaints – What Does it Mean?

Jun. 16, 2017

Written by Jacob Sherlock

There are few more stressful situations than having a process server hand you a Summons and Complaint.  This signals the start of dreaded “L” word – litigation.  While the term litigation may bring to mind multimillion dollar lawsuits between large corporations, it can encompass matters from the largest corporate lawsuit to a boundary line dispute between two neighbors.  Whether you are involved in a traffic accident, a business dispute, or are served with divorce papers, it is important to know what to do next after you are served with a Summons and Complaint.

In most cases in Minnesota, it is the service of the Summons and Complaint that begins a legal action, not the filing of a Complaint with the Court.  As a result, if you are served with a Summons and Complaint and you do not find your name in the Minnesota Court Public Access system, it does not mean that you are in the clear.  In most cases, the Plaintiff has one year from the date you are served with the Summons and Complaint to actually file the case with the District Court.

The most important thing you can do after being served is to not ignore the Summons and Complaint.  The first reaction of many people after being confronted with bad news is to pretend the bad news doesn’t exist.  In the litigation context however, this is one of the worst things you can do.  When served with a Summons and Complaint you must act quickly to protect your rights.  You must serve your Answer to the Complaint upon the Plaintiff within 20 days after you are served with the Summons and Complaint.  If the Answer is not served in time (or at all), you run the risk of waiving your rights in the lawsuit, and of the Plaintiff obtaining a default judgment against you.  A default judgment is exactly as it sounds – the Plaintiff wins its case against you by default.  A default judgment can be overturned in certain circumstances, however it is an uphill battle that can be avoided by submitting the Answer in a timely fashion.

The second most important thing you can do after being served is to take immediate action.  If you intend to seek legal counsel to assist you in your matter (and whether it is with our firm or another attorney, it is highly recommended that you retain counsel), it is important that you do so as soon as possible after receiving the Summons and Complaint.  The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find someone who will be able to take your case on a short notice.

Depending on your circumstances, you may feel that you cannot afford an attorney and must go it alone, or you may feel that you can provide yourself with adequate representation and do not need an attorney.  Proceeding on your own in a lawsuit is called proceeding pro se.  Every defendant has a legal right to proceed pro se, but be advised that the law requires the court to hold a pro se defendant to the same level as a seasoned attorney.  While some pro se litigants are able to reach a favorable result in their case by representing themselves, most often it is a better idea to hire knowledgeable legal counsel to navigate the legal waters for you.

The third most important thing you can do after being served is to avoid posting anything on social media about your case.  You may be tempted to take to your social media platform of choice to vent, to seek advice, or for other reasons, but keep in mind, you must treat everything that is posted on social media as public information.  If you post on social media about your case, there is no guarantee that the other side won’t see it, and won’t try to find a way to use your post against you.  However, if you do post social media about your case, whether before service of the Summons and Complaint or after, it is important that you do not delete any posts or other information already in the ether.  If you do, the other side may attempt bring a destruction of evidence (or “spoliation” for the complex legal term) claim against you, which may result in sanctions, and may have an adverse impact on your case.

Ultimately, in the event you are served with a Summons and Complaint, it is important to keep a level head, and to address the matter promptly, rather than becoming the proverbial ostrich and burying your head in the sand.  Blethen, Gage & Krause has a wealth of experience in litigation defense matters, and we would be happy to discuss your situation with you to make sure your rights are protected.  Contact attorney Jake Sherlock, or any of our other attorneys specializing in litigation defense, at 507-345-1166.

Velasquez and New ADA Law

Jun. 08, 2017

Kevin Velasquez, attorney at Blethen, Gage and Krause, recently provided a guest column to Greater Mankato Growth regarding a new ADA law regarding a new mandatory notice requirement.

In 2015, the number of lawsuits in state and federal courts in Minnesota asserting accessibility violations in public accommodations began to spike.  In 2014, there were 19 cases brought in federal court (including Minnesota Human Rights Act claims).  In 2015, the number of federal claims increased to 118, with many more claims commenced in state court.  The lawsuits generally sought a judicial order requiring removal of an architectural barrier to access, such as the addition of an access aisle in a parking lot, or that a service counter be lowered to an accessible height, as well as the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.

In 2016, the legislature changed the Minnesota Human Rights Act by creating a short, clear form letter that a person could fill out and provide to a business to notify it of an accessibility barrier.  The goal was to make it easy for a person to make a business aware of the existence of the barrier and encourage its prompt removal without the need for a lawsuit.  In order to advance this goal, under the 2016 amendment, if a person utilized the written notice, they could not commence a lawsuit for an MHRA violation until after the expiration of 30 days. The notice was voluntary, however, and if a person chose to forego the notice, he or she could begin a lawsuit immediately, with no notice.

The voluntary notice provision in the 2016 amendment did not have the desired effect, and lawsuits have continued at the 2015 pace.

Read More About 2017 Changes

For more information regarding how this law may impact you, contact Kevin Velasquez at 507-345-1166 or kvelasquez@blethenlaw.com.

Jake Sherlock – Blethen’s Attorney of the Month

Jun. 07, 2017

Jacob (Jake) Sherlock brings a unique judicial perspective to Blethen, Gage & Krause, PLLP, having served as the Jacob (Jake) Sherlock BGK LawJudicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Larry M. Collins in the Waseca County District Court, Waseca, Minnesota for over a year.  Jake joined the firm’s general litigation department in 2016, and represents clients in a wide array of litigation-related matters, including personal injury, product liability, family law, criminal defense, and insurance law.  Jacob also includes estate planning and probate as part of his practice.

Jake’s experience in the court system is a valuable asset, used to help clients navigate through the ins and outs of the legal process.  Jake’s calm and easy-going personality helps put clients at ease during potentially difficult situations.  Jake strives to advocate for his clients both effectively and efficiently.

Jake is a 2014 cum laude graduate of William Mitchell College of Law.  While attending law school, Jake worked as a law clerk for a well-known civil litigation firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Jake also served as the research assistant for Professors Kenneth Port and Anthony Winer, and served as a staff member for Cybaris®, William Mitchell’s Intellectual Property Law Review.

In his free time, Jake enjoys exploring Mankato with family and friends, jogging and biking through the local trails, and spending time with his dog, Chance.

Need help, contact Jake at 507-345-1166 or at jsherlock@blethenlaw.com!

Blethen Sponsor of City Art Sculpture Tour

May. 26, 2017

Blethen, Gage and Krause is proud to be a sponsor of the City Art Walking Sculpture Tour.  Our sponsored sculpture is called Oak Leaf Arch II.

This exciting exhibit of outdoor sculptures is displayed year-round in the City Center of Mankato and North Mankato, Minnesota. Artists place their sculptures in the program for one year. The sculptures are promoted to the public for sale. Artists are eligible to win cash awards, as well as the possibility of having their piece voted The People’s Choice and purchased by CityArt for permanent installation.

The artist of the Oak Leaf Arch II is Jim Gallucci.  Jim has been a sculptor for 40 years and works full time designing and creating/fabricating sculptures in his Greensboro studio, assisted by a staff of 5 people. His commissions can be found in public, corporate, and residential spaces throughout the country. Jim is currently showing his work in 24 sculpture shows across the nation.

Learn more here.

 

What is a Will, and Why Do I Need One?

May. 23, 2017

Wills are for everyone, not just the wealthy or elderly.  We don’t make a Will for ourselves; we make a Will for our loved ones.  Although it is never pleasant to think about wills and dying, if you die without a Will you’ll be subjecting your loved ones to possible confusion and anxiety at an already difficult time.

A Will is your written instructions regarding the distribution of your money, real estate and personal belongings. A Will can also determine who will raise your minor children, and who will be responsible for administering your estate (the personal representative). Without a Will, a court decides who will raise your children and who will be responsible for administering your estate.  Your money, real estate and personal belongings will be distributed according to a formula decided by legislatures, not you. This legislative formula is called intestate succession.

Intestate succession laws are one size fits all and cannot take into consideration whether some heirs have special needs or whether there are step-children or step-grandchildren that you would want treated as your own. Every family relationship has different dynamics, but intestate succession laws treat all families the same. These laws have no flexibility to address situations where there are no living blood relatives. What if your spouse and/or children died before you? What if you want part of your property to go to someone else, or a favorite charity? You need a Will to address these concerns.

Many people question whether they need a Will because all of their assets have a named beneficiary, or have a payable on death designation, or are owned in joint tenancy with another individual. Not all assets will fall into these categories, for example, who gets Grandma’s china or Grandpa’s guns? What if the beneficiary, payable on death designee, or joint owner dies first?

Another common question is whether you need a Will if you would distribute your assets in the same manner as intestate succession. In many respects a Will is a family management tool as well as a legal tool. With a Will you get to select the personal representative, instead of all of your children or heirs having to agree on a nominee and waive their own right. This causes delay, additional expense and the possibility that one child or heir will refuse to agree and hold up the process. With a Will you also get to make sure personal property/keepsakes go to the people you promised, forestalling years of strained relationships among siblings because of conflict over what appears to be trivial items to outsiders. The probate courts are full of examples of children and heirs acting out in a way that no one expected.

A Will remains effective until it is changed or revoked. However, you should not prepare a Will, put it away and forget about it. You should periodically review your Will and consider changing it if there is a birth or death in the family, if you marry or divorce, if your family dynamics change, if a named guardian for your children or personal representative is no longer available or appropriate, if the value or type of your property changes significantly, or if you move to another state.

This article was written by Kimberly Literovich.  If you need assistance creating a will, contact Kimberly or any of our other attorneys specializing in this topic at 507-345-1166.

Announcing Expanded Title Services

May. 19, 2017

Blethen, Gage and Krause, PLLP is pleased to announce that we now offer expanded real estate title services. 

Blethen Title Services is an extension of our real estate practice, offering closing services for any real estate transaction, large or small.  In addition, we have established Blethen Exchange, LLC, which allows us to offer tax-free exchange services qualifying under §1031 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Blethen Title Services

As part of our 120 year history, we have routinely processed commercial real estate and large residential transactions.  We assist a wide variety of clients including buyers, sellers, lenders, real estate agents, construction professionals, developers and investors. 

In addition to using real estate software to efficiently and accurately process closings and leveraging the vast knowledge and experience of our staff, we deliver unparalleled service to our clients. 

Blethen Exchange, LLC

Under Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, a taxpayer may defer recognition of capital gain and Federal income tax liability by completing an exchange of qualified property.  By reinvesting in a replacement property, taxpayers can defer the payment of income taxes on their investment that would otherwise be immediately lost to income taxation.

Blethen Exchange, LLC serves as a Qualified Intermediary and holds the proceeds from the sale of quailed property until replaced with like-kind property.  We make sure that all rules pertaining to the exchange are followed and coordinate all aspects of the process.  For more information regarding these services, please contact us at 507-345-1166 or send an email to kliterovich@blethenlaw.com or pshneider@blethenlaw.com.

Kim Literovich Speaks at Mankato Clinic

May. 16, 2017

Kim Literovich recently spoke at the Mankato Clinic Staff Appreciation Event about health care directives.

A health care directive is a written document that informs others of your wishes about your health care.   You have the right to state your wishes or appoint an agent in writing so that others will know what you want if you can’t tell them because of illness or injury.

A health care directive is important if your attending physician determines you can’t communicate your health care choices because of physical or mental capacity.  It is also important if you wish to have someone else make your health care decisions.  

There are certain requirements that must be met to make your healthcare legal.  Kim can help you develop your directive.  Contact her at 507-345-1166 or at kliterovich@blethenlaw.com

May Attorney of the Month – Kim Literovich

May. 15, 2017

Kim Literovich has been an associate with the firm since May 2015.  Her areas of practice include real estate, estate planning, probate and small business.  A large segment of her practice is devoted to drafting individually-tailored estate plans which benefit her clients and their families for years to come.  Whether it’s a simple will, power of attorney or health care directive, Kim eagerly servers her clients.

Kim’s warm personality puts clients at ease and helps them navigate the often complex array of legal matters.  She puts the client first!

She earned her B.S. degree in Business Administration in 2002.  She received her J.D. degree from Hamline University in 2005.

On a more personal note, Kim devotes time to YWCA, Girl’s Inc., Feed our Communities Partners, and Leave a Legacy.  Her and her husband Ron moved to Mankato from International Falls in 2015.

Learn more!

 

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Paul Shneider – VP of Minnesota River Builders Association

Jan. 30, 2017

Congratulations to Paul Shneider, attorney at Blethen, Gage and Krause, for being elected as Vice President of Minnesota River Builders Association for 2017!

The MN River Builders Association was founded in 1994 by a small group of builders and associate members whose goal was to increase the professionalism and quality of the homebuilding industry. Over the years the association has grown to include builders, remodelers, subcontractors, suppliers and other professionals who support the building industry in south-central Minnesota. They are the trusted voice of the industry, providing leadership, networking and information resources to our members, our communities and our government officials. The MRBA requires that all members have proper licensing for their industry and all must comply with the rules, regulations, and continuing education requirements set by state statue. MRBA strives to benefit their members in the professional growth of their businesses through participation, advocacy, education and community involvement.

 

Latest Update Regarding Overtime Rule

Dec. 05, 2016

The Department of Labor filed an appeal of the recent federal Court’s decision to halt the new overtime rule increasing salary requirements for certain exempt employees. Because the appeal process can be lengthy, and it is uncertain what effect the new administration will have on this issue, employers are encouraged to continue what they’ve been doing since November 22 when the federal Court granted the emergency motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the rule. At this time, the injunction is still in effect and the new rule did not take effect on December 1st.

Blethen, Gage and Krause will continue to monitor the situation and will provide updates as they are available.

We are available to provide assistance and guidance regarding this issue. You may call one of our employment law attorneys – Julia Ketcham Corbett, Beth Serrill or Kevin Velasquez at 507-345-1166 if you have questions.

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