If a company I worked for is being sued by one of their customers and I;m included in the suit, What are my rights?

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If a company I worked for is being sued by one of their customers and I;m included in the suit, What are my rights?

The customer named everyone they had interaction with in the suit. I was on the list. The company’s lawyer said the company would certainly extend any defense on behalf of all employees and previous employees. The lawyer wants me to get in touch an provide additional info regarding the situation that took place. What are my obligations here?

Asked on March 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should retain your own attorney, or at least meet with one before providing information to the company lawyers. If possible, get the company to reimburse (at least partially) your legal fees, but preferably do not use their lawyer or let them hire the attorney.

The reason is, the law does NOT require a company to defend its employees who are named in suit--it could be that you have an employment contract or union agreement requiring this, but if you don't, there is no general obligation to defend you. Also, the company's lawyer's first duty is to his or her client, which is the company--if he or she didn't put the company's interests first, he or she would be committing malpractice.

Therefore, anything you tell the company lawyer, if it helps the company but hurts you, could be used to your detriment; and the company lawyer does not necessarily have to defend you.

If they will put out a contract stating that they will defend you, that could change the equation and let you rely on their attorney--but if they do, get another lawyer to review the  contract for you first, so you truly understand your rights and their obligations. Without some written agreement obligating them to your defense, don't assume that the company's lawyer is automatically your lawyer.


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