(This is a part in a series about my experiences being sued and what the process, legalese, emotions and fear are like. Honestly, even posting this is equally as scary. But I hope it helps someone else who may or may not be in the same position. Finding a lawyer is tough, the emotions are tough, it's all pretty damned hard to deal with. It’s helping me to write about it, as the hearing on the 15th gets closer, it's becoming even realer (is that a word?) than it was when I was initially served. Being sued is truly an existential kind of a thing (as my attorney put it.))
On July 11th, I was scrambling to get my house in order for a small gathering of friends. Move the shoes, get the chairs, put the chips out in my record player bowl and put together a Philip Glass play list.
The knock came at 7:45, 15 minutes early and we were still tidying up. Though my friends know I’m a little disorganized and busy, I’d like to have them believe otherwise in some house-proud kind of a way. “They’re early! Damn them!” I shouted from the computer. Philip stopped, “there’s someone here for you?” Thinking I’d go to the door and find a 5-foot chicken or something equally bizarre, I was surprised to find a sunny blond woman holding a plain brown envelope.
I knew what it was. I’ve served people before. When I was about 18 I guess I didn’t look like a court employee, so I handed over documents at a construction site. She didn’t really look like a server either, or certainly not as you’d picture one. I usually see Ice-T or Christopher Meloni in my head whenever I think of courts (too much Law and Order I guess.)
I knew I could probably just look at her, shake my head no and not touch the envelope. But the court has a way of tracking people down and servers get creative. It would just delay the inevitable and I’d still be served. Besides, my curiosity got the better of me. What the hell could this possibly be about? Mystified, I reached out and touched it with my thumb and index finger “you’ve been served.” “For what?!” I exclaimed, more out of shock than an actual question.
“I don’t know, I’m just the server!” she called, rushing out of the courtyard. A speedy exit, I remembered, is important just after you've served someone.
As I closed the door I racked my brain for options. Maybe an old debt when I was young and stupid? Is there something I forgot to pay? Maybe some other court kind of a thing?
I looked at the envelope for a minute and opened it. I read through the discovery and the lawsuit. “Dr. Darm is suing me! Oh my god!” And then I saw the amount.
“For a million dollars.”
My brain raced 5000 miles a minute. Stress about house cleaning and my previous good mood evaporated. I was in shock. I was terrified. A million dollars is a frightening and extraordinary amount of money to someone like me.
Weird and not so weird thoughts passed through my head. Could they take my bike? (Worth nothing except it’s blue and covered in stars, it’s still one of my prized possessions.) How could I possibly pay anyone that much money without winning the lottery? Could they take my meagre 401k? How could I find someone to help me? I read and re-read the papers, shaking. What could I do? What were my options? How could I get help?
I knew one thing, I had to find an attorney.
But I had no idea how.