Law Suits come in a variety of forms and sizes. Many lawsuits seek money damages. Other lawsuits seek equitable remedies such as injunctive relief whereby the court orders a party to do something or to refrain from doing something. Law suits often arise out of contract, tort, or property law. Perhaps, a party didn’t pay when they said they would on a contract. Or perhaps a motorist has harmed a pedestrian. Or perhaps there are legal disputes between a landlord and tenant.
Generally, a lawsuit is brought by an aggrieved party called the plaintiff. The plaintiff will start a lawsuit by filing a complaint. The complaint alleges the specific facts that caused the Plaintiff injury. This may be financial injury, physical injury to person or property, or both.
The Defendant is the party against whom the lawsuit is brought. The Plaintiff’s complaint must name the Defendant in their complaint as well as allege the specific conduct by the Defendant that allegedly injured the Plaintiff. The Defendant then has a variety of ways by which they can respond to the complaint. Defects in the service, service process, jurisdiction, and the complaint itself are often raised first. Factual and affirmative defenses are raised later in an answer pleading if at all.
From there, the parties will file legal motions and memoranda arguing the case until it is set for discovery. Discovery is the process by which the parties gather information through disclosures, admissions, depositions, and production of evidence.
If the lawsuit proceeds further, the parties will often move for summary judgment. Summary judgment is where, after all the facts are discovered, the parties move the court to rule in their favor stating that there are insufficient facts to support one another’s allegations. The judge will then decide whether the suit should continue to trial, or be disposed of summarily for one party or the other.
If the case proceeds to trial, the parties will commit to a trial date, and appear before a court. Sometimes cases are tried to a jury, sometimes cases are tried to a judge. During trial, the Plaintiff bears the burden of proving “by a preponderance of the evidence” (more likely than not) that the allegations are true. The Defendant will argue that the Plaintiff did not meet their burden and that the allegations are false. The Defendant might also raise an affirmative defense (Self Defense, Statute of Limitations, Waiver, etc.).
At the close of trial, the judge or jury will make a decision as to who wins. This is called a verdict. If the Plaintiff prevails, they will have what is called a judgment entered against the Defendant. This judgment can be enforced in order to receive money damages or injunctive relief.
However, most cases do not proceed to trial. They are settled by the parties early on for a dollar amount. A skilled attorney hired early in a case can make the most of civil claims in either defending or prosecuting a lawsuit. Attorney Geoff Spall has experience in civil actions like this and can assist you in your claims or defenses.