Virginia has two trial courts that someone in the construction industry is likely to encounter. The first is General District Court, and you may start seeing this court more often because effective this year the jurisdictional limit was increased to $25,000. I’ll discuss those processes in a later blog. But if the amount in controversy is greater than $25,000, the action will likely be in Circuit Court. After service, you have 21 days to file a responsive pleading with the court. That means you want to get the complaint to your attorney sooner, rather than later, so they can consider responsive strategies, including whether they’ll be filing an answer, a motion, or some other response.
Also, in some instances there could be insurance coverage or at least insurance defense, and so you’ll also want to consider advising your insurance agent for their input, and the giving of required notices to your insurer (your policy will specify how, when, to whom, etc.). Your attorney may also want to consider “third-partying” in another party to the lawsuit, such as for example your subcontractor if the suit alleges deficiencies with their work. All of this needs to be considered and decided within those 21 days of service, unless the time is extended by the court. So, a lawsuit is not something you want to sit upon and, like fruit, it doesn’t grow better with age. I’ll discuss other aspects of that decision making process from time to time in this blog.