What to do if you are sued in a frivolous lawsuit.

Expert Advice from North Carolina Civil Litigation Firm

Nobody ever expects to be slapped with a frivolous lawsuit. But these meritless claims do happen sometimes, often driven by greed or an unreasonable sense of entitlement. While frustrating, it's crucial to take these lawsuits seriously from the start. An unfounded case allowed to linger can wreak havoc through wasted time, legal fees, and reputational damage. In this article, we'll cover what to do in you are sued in a frivolous lawsuit.

Defining "Frivolous"

Before we dig in, let's clarify what makes a lawsuit "frivolous." The term refers to a claim that completely lacks legal merit or a factual basis. It's a case so unreasonable that no rational person could expect to prevail. Examples include suing over preposterous allegations or claims contradicted by ironclad evidence like video footage refuting the events described. Frivolous cases are a far cry from typical "loser" cases lawyers routinely defend. They are objectively baseless from day one.

Don't Ignore It: Respond Promptly

As tempting as it may be to ignore a frivolous claim, that's the worst approach. North Carolina has strict deadlines for responding to lawsuits. Blow these filing windows and you may automatically lose, regardless of the suit's merits. When served with a summons, take it seriously and consult an attorney immediately, even if the claims seem ludicrous. Many law firms like ours offer free initial consultations for exactly these situations.

Seek to Dismiss via Rule 12

Your lawyer will likely move to dismiss the case entirely via Rule 12 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. This rule allows for early dismissal if the complaint fails to state a valid legal claim or of it is deficient for some other procedural rule. Essentially, it's the courtroom trap door for frivolous cases.

To illustrate, imagine you're a restaurant owner in Randolph County wrongfully accused of intentionally poisoning a diner's meal (a wild scenario, I know). Since intentional claims require specific evidence of intent that is clearly lacking, your attorney could file a 12(b)(6) motion showcasing the complaint's shortcomings on its face. If the judge agrees the claim is baseless, they can toss it out early on before expensive discovery occurs.

Request Sanctions for Truly Egregious Cases

In rare, egregious situations where the frivolous suit seems brought solely to harass, your attorney may seek sanctions from the court against the filer and/or their counsel. North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 11 allows judges to require violators to pay the opposing party's legal fees when a claim was frivolous and likely commenced for an improper purpose like harassment.

These sanctions aim to deter the filing of truly abusive, meritless cases. They're a heavy judicial stick reserved for the worst actors. But when allegations cross the line into the ludicrous, don't be afraid to pursue Rule 11 sanctions to discourage such conduct and recoup your fees.


Nobody should have to endure a frivolous lawsuit. The financial and emotional drain can take a significant toll. But by recognizing these claims for what they are, responding promptly, and pursuing the proper legal channels like Rule 12 and Rule 11, you can shut down meritless cases swiftly. With the right representation at your side, you can clear this hurdle confidently and decisively.

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