In Florida, a plaintiff can file suit and then wait 120 days to serve a defendant with the complaint. Additionally, trial courts are required to extend the time to serve a defendant past the 120 days if the plaintiff makes a reasonable showing why more time is needed.
What this means for religious organizations who find themselves in an adversary position with a claimant making demands for compensation is that, although the organization has not been served with a lawsuit, the organization may have already been sued. Because a claimant can take its time in serving a religious organization with a filed lawsuit, that claimant can trick an organization into continuing to communicate possibly damaging information under the organization’s mistaken belief that cooperation will avoid a lawsuit; all the while, the claimant is simply informally building their case against an organization that has already been sued.
The takeaway for religious organizations is the value in getting legal counsel involved as early as possible in disputes. Counsel can help religious organizations avoid being trapped into unknowingly helping adverse parties build their case, including uncovering whether a religious organization has been sued before the organization is served with the lawsuit.