Q: We were served with a Praecipe for Writ of Summons. It says we have 20 days to respond. What happens if we don’t? Should we contact the Plaintiff’s attorney to see what they are claiming and seeking, or wait to see if they actually file a lawsuit before engaging with them? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: A civil writ in PA is generally used to toll (pause) a statute of limitations to give a plaintiff additional time to prepare and file a complaint with in the designated statute time. For example, if A wants to sue B, and the statute requires the complaint to be filed by 2/1/19, A can file a writ by 2/1/19 and get an extra 20 days (until 2/21/19) to actually file his complaint. Normally, we see this when plaintiffs decide to sue at the last minute for whatever reason. I have also, unfortunately, seen attorneys do this to harass and annoy a party. An attorney did this to my client by filing a civil writ just before trial in Orphan’s Court. I filed a Praecipe for Rule to File a Complaint, which required the attorney to file a Complaint in 20 days. Of course, he did not file a complaint in 20 days as he did not really have a cause of action and only did this to harass and intimidate my client. There are not many attorneys that misuse the rules in such a manner but there are few out there. I would take your papers to an attorney as there is a possibility you may be sued.