This feature originally appeared in the October 27th edition of the Pittsburgh Business Times.
Q: My company (or an employee of my company) was just served with a subpoena in a lawsuit that we are not a party to. Why did we receive this and what should we do next?
Advice: If you or your company has been served with a subpoena in a lawsuit you are not a party to, it probably means that one of the parties to that lawsuit believes that you have documents or information relevant to their case. A subpoena is the legal mechanism by which a party to a lawsuit can obtain documents or information from a non-party that they believe may be related to their lawsuit. The subpoena may request documents, an inspection of property or real estate, or attendance at a deposition, court hearing or trial.
The first thing you should do if you are served with such a subpoena is READ IT CAREFULLY AND DON’T IGNORE IT. Once you or your company have been served with a subpoena, you are legally obligated to either comply with the subpoena or provide a valid and legal reason to the requesting party and possibly the Court as to why you cannot or should not be required to comply. If you fail to comply with a valid subpoena, you may be subject to serious legal sanctions.
Once you review the subpoena, I recommend you contact an experienced commercial litigation attorney to help you assess whether you have any responsive information and whether you have valid, legal reasons to oppose the subpoena.
John J. Richardson