Our commercial litigation lawyers can help you file a lawsuit against another party if you cannot reach a resolution.
The normal steps of a lawsuit are as follows:
- Litigation begins when the plaintiff files a complaint with the court and serves the complaint on a defendant. The complaint describes what the defendant did (or failed to do) that caused harm to the plaintiff. The complaint also states the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible for that harm.
- Next, the defendant answers the complaint. The answer provides the defendant’s side of the dispute. The defendant may also file counter-claims against the plaintiff. The counter claims will allege the harm the plaintiff caused the defendant and that the plaintiff should be held liable for that harm. If the defendant filed a counter claim, then the plaintiff would respond to the defendant’s counter-claims by filing an answer to the counter-claim. Other pleadings can be made in this step that are beyond the scope of this introductory explanation. Upon the parties completing the above pleadings, the issues before the court will be set.
- Once the pleadings are set, the discovery period of the case commences. Discovery is the manner in which both parties gather evidence or information from each other or third parties that will be used at trial or in support of pre-trial motions. During this period, each party shall also perform research regarding the applicable case law that will support their motions or position at trial.
- Prior to trial, either party can use motions to ask the court to rule or act on certain matters that may or may not affect the final outcome of the case. Motions may pertain to issues of law, facts in in the disputed case or seek clarification or resolution of procedural disputes between the parties. Motions can be used to dismiss the complaint or to eliminate issues that are set forth in the pleadings. Motions can also be used to compel parties to comply with discovery or with instructions previously ordered by the court.
- In most instances, before trial, the court will order a pre-trial conference to narrow the issues between the parties. Sometimes a settlement is reached at this pre-trial conference. If not, another opportunity to settle may take place at mediation.
- At trial, the parties will present their witnesses, the evidence supporting each party’s claims or defenses and arguments. Depending on the type of trial selected by the parties, either the judge or a jury will ultimately determine the outcome of the case based on the testimony presented and the evidence presented at the trial.
The normal sequence of a trial is as followed:
- In a jury trial, both parties are given the chance to question potential jurors during a selection process known as voir dire;
- Then, each party will present its outline of the case in an opening statement;
- Next, the parties present evidence. The plaintiff presents evidence first, then the defendant. Sometimes, the plaintiff is allowed to present additional evidence, called rebuttal evidence, after the defendant has finished presenting its case;
- Then, after both parties have presented their evidence, each party shall be given a chance to present their closing arguments;
- After closing arguments, in a jury trial, the court will instruct the jury on the law that is to be applied to the evidence; and
- Lastly, the judge or jury will deliberate and reach a decision or verdict.