Don’t ignore lawsuits, judge warns Bensonhurst residents

January 9, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Hon. Genine D. Edwards had words of advice for Bensonhurst residents on how to navigate the court system. She spoke at a Community Board 11 meeting Jan. 8. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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If someone files a lawsuit against you, don’t ignore it thinking it will just go away. It won’t. And you’ll wind up paying big time.

That advice comes from Hon. Genine D. Edwards of the Civil Court of New York City. Edwards, who sits on the bench in Brooklyn, was the guest speaker at a Community Board 11 meeting in Bensonhurst on Jan. 8 and offered some friendly advice on how to navigate the court system.

One tip: don’t be afraid if you find yourself at the wrong end of a lawsuit. You have rights. But it’s a bad idea to ignore the suit, Edwards warned. “If someone sues you, answer the suit. If you don’t answer, you lose your rights,” Edwards told the community board at the meeting, which took place at the Bensonhurst Center for Health and Rehabilitation at 1740 84th St.

You can always present your side of the case in court, she added.

Edwards cited examples of how defendants suffer when they choose to ignore a lawsuit filed against them. If a resident, for example, fails to pay a National Grid bill and the gas company sues them for the money, the company will often come in and seize the gas meter if the defendant ignores the suit, she said.

Another interesting tidbit: most cases filed in civil court never actually go to trial. They are settled beforehand.

“Most cases are not resolved by trial. They are resolved by stipulation,” she said, referring to settlements. If the two parties sign a settlement agreement, the court considers it to be a legally binding contract, Edwards said. “That settlement stipulation cannot be violated.”

The civil court in Brooklyn handles thousands of cases a year, according to Edwards, who said all types of matters come before the court, including personal injury cases, credit card debtors and non-payment of bills.

There is also Small Claims Court, where cases where the value of damage is less than $5,000 are heard. An example of a Small Claims Court case would be “if a mechanic you hired didn’t fix your car,” Edwards said. The two sides go into court and present their side of the story, she said.

Edwards, who is also an acting New York State Supreme Court justice, said residents shouldn’t be intimidated at the thought of going to court because the court is there to serve the public. “We call the civil court the People’s Court,” she told the community board.

In other news, the community board observed a moment of silence at the start of the meeting in tribute to former governor Mario Cuomo, police detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Officer Thomas Choi.

Choi died Dec. 29. He had been struck by a car on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge while on duty in October of 2013 and never recovered from his injuries. Ramos and Liu were assassinated in their squad car on a Bed-Stuy street on Dec. 20. Cuomo, who served three terms as governor of New York, died Jan. 1 of heart failure.

A handful of police from the 62nd Precinct attended the community board meeting. Board Chairman Bill Guarinello had a special message for them. “The board supports you. We’re behind you 100 percent. And we want you to be safe out there,” he told the cops, who appeared to be touched by the public show of support.

Board member Sonia Valentin, who is also a member of the 62nd Precinct Community Council, handed out blue ribbons and asked board members to wear them to show solidarity with the NYPD.

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