The Law Offices of Douglas M. Wade
At the Law Offices of Douglas M. Wade, we make every effort to educate businesses about their rights and responsibilities to prevent conflicts that could lead to time-consuming, costly claims and litigation. Anyone can be sued&endash;regardless of whether the suit has merit. Becoming familiar with the terms and proceedings of a lawsuit will make it easier for you to discuss concerns with us, at any time.
Anything but simple. Anything but quick.
Depending on many factors related to a particular case, the steps for filing or responding to a legal complaint vary. And, because at least two parties are involved a lawsuit, delays and complications are the order of the day. A speedy resolution is any suit that has been resolved in less than a year. Many can last years.
- The plaintiff is the person or business doing the suing, and the defendant is the person or business being sued.
- Filing a complaint or petition with the Court is the first step in a civil suit.
- The defendant will be served the complaint, usually along with a Summons to appear in Court. NOTE: Some jurisdictions prohibit the plaintiff from serving documents to the defendant.
- If the defendant fails to respond within the specified period of time, usually three weeks, the court may enter a default judgment against the defendant, meaning the plaintiff wins. If the defendant has claims (complaints) against the plaintiff or a third party, both the defendant and third party must respond by this date.
- Discovery involves the parties exchanging documents and information related to the claim(s), which can be presented as evidence to the court: personnel records, time sheets, contracts, licenses, employee handbooks, job descriptions, invoices, etc. Information is also gathered through interrogatories (written questions requiring the other party to respond under oath) and depositions (taken under oath in the presence of a court officer). Discovery can take a very long time.
- Mediation, negotiation, or binding arbitration often results in a satisfactory agreement between parties, eliminating the need for a trial and further attorney costs.
- Motions can be filed to drop the case, or a portion of it, but expect high costs and long delays. Motions are appropriate if all parties agree on some of the issues and/or if the plaintiff has no chance of winning due to insufficient evidence, faulty premises, or other issues.
- If the case goes to trial, either party can request a jury.
- If you are called to testify at trial, you will receive a subpoena.
- Once the judge or jury reaches a decision, the judge orders that the judgment be entered for the party who wins.
- Either party (winner or loser) can appeal a judge’s decision to a higher court so long as both parties have NOT agreed to its terms. Appeals court rarely overturns a judge’s decision.