How to go about a wrongfully issued summons?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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How to go about a wrongfully issued summons?

I was served a summons yesterday that 4 years ago I hit a car and caused it damage. I additionally, settled on an agreement to pay the amount in installments. However, none of the events mentioned happened. I didn’t even have a car at that time. The summons says that I have to appear in court. I don’t want to pay unnecessary lawyer fees as I didn’t do anything. Can you suggest an alternate way?

Asked on May 11, 2016 under Accident Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

First, contact the plaintiff (person suing) or, if he/she has a lawyer, the attorney: explain what you just explained to us, and see what documentation they want (if any) and you can provide to show this was not you. This could be an innocent error (e.g. the real defendant may have the same or a similar name, so when they searched for the defendant, they came up with you), and if you convince the plaintiff or lawyer that you're not the right person, they can voluntarily dismiss the case. (If they agree to do this, ask to be copied on the letter of dismissal; then call the court to make sure it occured).
If they won't agree to voluntarily dismiss the case, you will have to file an answer, if the summons says that you must; in your answer, deny all the incorrect facts and also affirmatively state that you are not this person, did not own a car then, had not been in an accident, etc. Then make a motion to dismiss based on you not being the correct defendant. You should be able to get instructions and possibly sample or template forms from the court for the answer and the motion. If you don't answer, then right defendant or wrong, you will lose by default.
If the summons does not require an answer (e.g. it is for small claims court, and in many small claims court, there is no answer) and the other side does not voluntarily dismiss, you will need to show up in court and make your case to the judge.
Obviously, if they won't voluntarily dismiss, an attorney would be helpful, but you do have the right to answer, appear in court, etc. yourself.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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