See you in court?
March 27, 2010 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Should a plaintiff provide copies of her smalls claims court lawsuit papers to the insurance company of the party she is suing?

A co-worker asked my opinion as to whether she should comply with a request from a rep from the auto insurance company of someone she is suing. He wants her to give him copies of her court papers. She suing, in small claims court, the driver and the owner of a car that backed into the front of her car in the parking lot of a restaurant. Their insurance company refused to pay for the damage to her car, saying she caused the accident and lied about what happened.

The case goes before small claims court in two weeks and she just got a phone call from a person handling the case for the defendan't's insurance company. He asked her to give him copies of her court papers. He also wanted to know if she was represented by a lawyer. (She is not.) Shouldn't they be able to get any relevant documents directly from the court? Shouldn't they already have them? She paid to have the driver and owner served with the suit months ago and they definitely were. Should she say "No, see you in court, don't call me again?" Was this guy just trying to get a feel for what they'll encounter in court?

(This is happening in Connecticut.)
posted by longsleeves to Law & Government (11 answers total)
If the insurance company is not named in the lawsuit, don't provide them with a copy.

A separate question is whether the insurance company is a necessary or proper party to the suit, in which case they should be named in the lawsuit and served (and if so, check to see if your small claims courts allow for multiple defendants or whether you should just sue the insurance company by itself.) But you don't provide enough information to answer this question.

What is the size of the claim?
posted by mikeand1 at 1:48 PM on March 27, 2010

She should consult a lawyer before she follows any advice from you or us. (I would also advise her to consult a lawyer generally about the case before the trial begins.) Annoying but true. Procedural rules about who gets copies of what differ from state to state and court to court.
posted by sallybrown at 1:50 PM on March 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The claim is for $2,400
posted by longsleeves at 1:54 PM on March 27, 2010

Oh, and she can always call the Small Claims Court to ask procedural questions (such as who should get a copy).
posted by sallybrown at 2:01 PM on March 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

It looks like small claims courts in Connecticut allow for more than one defendant, so it would be possible to sue both the individual and the insurance company (but check to see if the latter is out of state, in which case you may not be able to insure them unless they have some real property in Connecticut.)

It sounds like you've already had some dealings with the insurance company, because they rejected your claim (implying that they took it on). They may well be a necessary party, but I can't really tell.

For $2,400, I agree that you should consult with an attorney who knows something about how small claims works there. If it was for several hundred bucks I'd say forget about it, but it might be worth it for $2,400.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:04 PM on March 27, 2010

Whoops ^^^ "insure" -> sue.
posted by mikeand1 at 2:04 PM on March 27, 2010

Best answer: For $2,400, consulting with a lawyer would be a good idea. You don't know what kind of procedural traps you might be falling into by either acceding or refusing this request.

That said, if you would rather roll the dice (which you shouldn't, you should DEFINITELY talk to a lawyer), it is my personal experience that judges don't really like it when parties to a case do not extend courtesies to the other parties. It makes the process even more difficult than it has to be.
posted by grouse at 2:28 PM on March 27, 2010

I'm not a lawyer but I'd imagine that if they really believed they had a procedural right to these documents they'd have made the request in writing. Otherwise how do they claim they have been wronged?

Beyond that, if they are simply asking for copies of papers she's filed with the court then they're public record and I don't see the harm in providing them. The upside, I would imagine, is that it gives them less cause to come into court and immediately ask for a continuance so they can get their shit together.
posted by phearlez at 5:06 PM on March 27, 2010

Best answer: IANAL but if the insurance company is not being named as a defendant or isn't representing the defendant then they really don't have standing in the suit. Now, the defendant could have the insurance company representing him, the ins co would need to tell you this and to have filed with the court.

As for providing them with court documents, why not? If all they're asking for is the papers filed with the court then they're not going to learn anything more than has already been made public. You're not losing anything by giving them a copy of what's already public. If anything you're putting yourself in a better position should they try and raise (a rather bogus) issue of it come trial time. Better not to look like you've been "uncooperative", or to give the opposing party the opportunity to exaggerate it. But do not offer to give anything more than what's already filed.

Your co-worker's best bet is to hire counsel to represent her. They do this sort of thing for a living and know the local ins-and-outs of how the courts handle this sort of thing.
posted by wkearney99 at 5:07 PM on March 27, 2010

Best answer: She should give them the papers. As others have pointed out, if you are talking about the court papers she filed, they are not secret - they are in a public court file. Yes, the insurance company could get them from the file, but what's the point if she has the papers and can fax them over? If she does not give them the papers, the insurance lawyer may show up in court and say something like "Judge, I need two more weeks, I haven't read the papers yet." This would be annoying.

My guess is that the insurance company is taking over the defense -- i.e., some lawyer for the insurance company is going to show up in court to represent the other driver. That lawyer is trying to get the papers to figure out what is going on in the case that he's just been handed. They are asking if your friend has a lawyer because they are not allowed to call your friend directly if she is represented by a lawyer (which is a good reason to have a lawyer).
posted by Mid at 8:24 PM on March 27, 2010

Response by poster: My co-worker decided to provide the paperwork to the insurance company. Her case was heard on April 8th, she spoke for herself without a lawyer. The judgement was posted on the court website the next day. SHE WON!

Thanks to all who answered.
posted by longsleeves at 2:26 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

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