Has Your Business Been Served?

If your business has been served with legal papers, it is important to act quickly, and determine whether you have been summoned or subpoenaed.


The information below assumes valid service and subpoena requests.  Invalid service or an objectionable request may relieve the recipient from responding, appearing, or producing documents.  It is therefore of vital importance to talk to an attorney to determine if you have been validly served and whether and how you should respond.


Summons vs. Subpoena

If you have been served with legal papers, they are likely accompanied by either a summons or a subpoena. A summons means someone has brought a lawsuit against you. If this is the case, it will be important to contact experienced legal counsel without delay. A subpoena, on the other hand, can be served on parties and non-parties to a lawsuit or criminal case, and does not necessarily mean that the recipient is being sued. Instead, the court is commanding your presence or your documents at a deposition, trial, arbitration, or hearing.


Any person or business that is a resident of California can be subpoenaed. If a business receives a subpoena, they are required by law to produce the person most qualified on the subject matter to testify.


Any existing document or item can be subpoenaed for production, but the subpoena has to adequately describe the documents or items requested for production.


Responding to a Subpoena

A subpoena that commands a person’s attendance will require testimony at a specific time and place. A subpoena that commands production of documents or items will require production of these things at a specific time and place. A subpoena can command both, requiring a person to appear, testify, and produce documents.


The subpoena will outline how much time there is to respond, and where the person or documents must be produced. As stated above, a subpoena must be properly served to be effective.  Even if service is proper, a subpoena can be stopped with a protective order, including a protective order filed by another party.  However, if the deadline is approaching and there have been no objections, the witness must testify or produce the documents at the stated place and time. He or she may redact any private information on the documents.

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