The Litigation Process
So you have a complaint or you received a demand letter. You need to know what to expect as early in the litigation process as possible. Whether it is conducting an initial investigation to preempt a lawsuit, or properly preserving evidence to assist your case once it ends up in litigation, you should consult with counsel as soon as possible during the litigation process.
Once the Litigation Process Begins
You have been served with a lawsuit — what now? The summons will explain that an answer must be served within a specified amount of time. Your strategy for responding to a claim must be decided as soon as possible. Don’t procrastinate in seeking legal advice. If you wait too long before consulting an attorney, you may be precluded from asserting certain defenses or counterclaims, jeopardizing your future rights and strategies. In fact, you may even be required to retain counsel to defend against the claims if the lawsuit is filed against your business, rather than against you as an individual.
Now you are involved in a lawsuit in state or federal court. If there are no legal defenses to dispose of the claim initially, or an arbitration or other clause that requires some other procedure or forum/venue, then you will have to defend in the court in which you were sued. The next step is the “discovery” phase where the parties can use various procedures to uncover information – whether helpful or harmful to their case. These include:
- requests for documents
- requests for admissions
- subpoenas to third parties
- other procedures
These tools are uniquely subject to the rules dictated by the court in which the lawsuit is venued. You are subject to them whether you have an attorney or not. For the most part, courts will not give you “a second chance” if you don’t follow the rules, even if you are representing yourself. Prompt consultation and guidance from an attorney is critical in making sure you follow court rules and preserve your rights throughout the litigation process.
Often one of the parties will request that the court dismiss the lawsuit (or “grant summary judgment”). Let’s assume that the court doesn’t agree to grant judgment. You are now at the trial stage. Keep in mind that you can’t simply walk into the court room and tell your side of the story. Court rules require certain submissions prior to empaneling a jury and proceeding with the trial. Items typically presented before trial include:
- jury instructions
- verdict form
- motions regarding what can and cannot be presented
- a trial brief
- other necessary submissions
Once trial commences, the process can be intense and emotionally consuming to the uninitiated. Know what to expect and how to handle the process by asking your attorney exactly what is involved in the litigation process and which strategies you should use to maximize your chances for success.
Regardless of whether you win or lose at trial, there is always the chance one party (or both parties) will appeal the decision of the court and/or the jury. Sometimes the court will make a mistake in applying the law. The appellate process provides an opportunity to review those decisions. At this level, however, rules determine whether you can pursue an appeal. You should consult a qualified attorney to ensure that your rights to appeal a bad decision are preserved, and to find out whether an appeal is appropriate and prudent.
Mr. Meyer has extensive appellate experience with the appeals process in both federal and state courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Contact Meyer Law Office to learn more.