Litigation is the nightmare of all nightmares for normal people. Mr. Lewis likes it because he has been doing it for so long. This page is designed to give you a very brief primer on litigation so you can learn what to expect. This is in no way instructive and should not be used to question the advise of an attorney with whom you are currently engaged. It is a very general road map designed to remove the mystery lay people become mired within; the stages of litigation are as follows:
- Pre-litigation: Oftentimes the parties will attempt to settle their dispute before filing a “complaint.” Many motor vehicle accident cases are settled this way.
- Pleading stage: This begins when the plaintiff files a complaint (or a petitioner files a petition). This is an important date. Statutes begin to run and other statutes are at the same time satisfied when one party goes to the county clerk and publicly files a lawsuit. Action must now be taken. An Answer (or Response), Demurrer, Motion to Strike or Anti-Slapp suit must be filed within a certain time limit; usually 30 days. Do not miss the time limit or you will find yourself in DEFAULT (the worst of all outcomes).
- Discovery Stage: Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, Document Productions, Site Inspections, Requests for Admission, Depositions and motions concerning the same. This stage last for months and costs money; real money.
- MSJ: The Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the Alternative Summary Adjudication of the Issues, is a motion filed most often by defendants seeking to end all or many causes of action. This can be the end of the case. It takes many many hours of attorney time to prepare and file the moving and opposing papers.
- Expert Witnesses: Experts are disclosed and deposed. This is very expensive.
- Trial: The most expensive time and the most important time for any party. The attorney needs to take copious hours to prepare and produce your case. Trial and Post trial motions are almost always made. Occasionally, a granted motion can end the case. Post trial motions set up the Appeal.
- Appeal: This is merely the beginning of the case for some firms. You think you have weathered the storm of litigation and won the trial. For some, this is the beginning of negotiations and motions. Unless you are prepared emotionally and financially, the post trial appeal stage is by far the most frustrating and difficult to understand.
- Re-trial: The dreaded re-trial. After years of litigation and thousands and thousands of dollars spent, the case gets tried again. Witnesses are gone, people lost, emotions tampered. Few are ready for the re-trial. Only the those with real litigation tolerance can survive the re-trial.
- Appeal: Yes, it keeps on going.
- Settlement: The parties realize the litigation might destroy them both and they ultimately settle. The almost always wish they had done it sooner.
Litigation is a nightmare for people who have little experience. The truth is that most people have a refined belief of right and wrong that is not present in the Civil Justice System. The Civil world is a place where imperfect facts meet man-made law: the outcome is just the best we can do, it is not meant to be perfect. It is meant to be the best of a bad lot. If you take nothing else away from this site, take this away: avoid litigation if you can.