STAGES OF A CIVIL LAWSUIT

Many people may be generally aware of what occurs in a civil lawsuit. However, many people do not know the details of what procedurally occurs in one. This article covers the basic stages of a civil lawsuit.
A civil lawsuit is generally a case for money damages or equitable relief (e.g. what is fair) as appose to a criminal lawsuit wherein the government through a prosecutor brings charges against someone or some entity for criminal misconduct.
Each state and the federal government have their own rules and procedures for a civil lawsuit, and may have different names for each of its proceedings. Your legal counsel should be familiar with your state’s procedure or federal civil procedure. Depending on what type of claim you have, or may have against you, you may find yourself in state or federal court.
In any event, procedurally, the stages of a civil law suit generally occur within following the categories:
1. Pleadings
2. Discovery
3. Motions
4. Pre-trial
5. Trial
6. Post Trial
Pleadings
Pleadings include:
a complaint wherein the plaintiff bringing the claim must set forth the facts supporting the claims and state the causes of action;
an answer wherein defendant must admit, deny or deny knowledge of any alleged facts in the complaint
affirmative defenses, wherein the defendant provides defenses to the complaint;
counterclaims wherein the defendant brings an action against the plaintiff;
and a reply to counterclaims, similar to an answer.

Discovery
After the pleadings, the lawsuit enters the discovery stage. Usually discovery entails:
Depositions, wherein the parties can depose (interview) under oath the other party prior to trial;
Interrogatories, wherein each party can ask written questions of the other party prior to trial
Document Demands, wherein each party can request relevant documents from the other party; and
Subpoenas, wherein each party may serve a subpoena on a third party for documents, to answer written question or to be interviewed under oath.
Motions
There are many different types of motions that can occur in a civil lawsuit. Some of the more common ones are a:
motion to dismiss the case outright before answering the complaint;
motion for summary judgment for the court to make its decision when there is no dispute in facts and no need to proceed to trial,
motion to compel usually when a party is not providing documentary evidence or required information;
motion to strike usually when a party is violating an order;
motion to renew or reargue a previous motion; and
various pre-trial and post trial motions.

Pre-Trial
After the discovery stage, the parties must prepare for trial. This task is very time consuming as each party must develop its case and defenses so it is well prepared for the trial. This includes developing opening and closing statements, direct and cross examinations and jury instructions as well as preparing the witnesses.
Trial
Most people are familiar with the trial procedure. However, usually a civil trial is not a dramatic as a criminal trial mostly seen on television. The trial is usually on specific facts supporting a money damage claim or equitable STAGES OF A CIVIL LAWSUIT
Many people may be generally aware of what occurs in a civil lawsuit. However, many people do not know the details of what procedurally occurs in one. This article covers the basic stages of a civil lawsuit.
A civil lawsuit is generally a case for money damages or equitable relief (e.g. what is fair) as appose to a criminal lawsuit wherein the government through a prosecutor brings charges against someone or some entity for criminal misconduct.
Each state and the federal government have their own rules and procedures for a civil lawsuit, and may have different names for each of its proceedings. Your legal counsel should be familiar with your state’s procedure or federal civil procedure. Depending on what type of claim you have, or may have against you, you may find yourself in state or federal court.
In any event, procedurally, the stages of a civil law suit generally occur within following the categories:
1. Pleadings
2. Discovery
3. Motions
4. Pre-trial
5. Trial
6. Post Trial
Pleadings
Pleadings include:
a complaint wherein the plaintiff bringing the claim must set forth the facts supporting the claims and state the causes of action;
an answer wherein defendant must admit, deny or deny knowledge of any alleged facts in the complaint
affirmative defenses, wherein the defendant provides defenses to the complaint;
counterclaims wherein the defendant brings an action against the plaintiff;
and a reply to counterclaims, similar to an answer.

Discovery
After the pleadings, the lawsuit enters the discovery stage. Usually discovery entails:
Depositions, wherein the parties can depose (interview) under oath the other party prior to trial;
Interrogatories, wherein each party can ask written questions of the other party prior to trial
Document Demands, wherein each party can request relevant documents from the other party; and
Subpoenas, wherein each party may serve a subpoena on a third party for documents, to answer written question or to be interviewed under oath.
Motions
There are many different types of motions that can occur in a civil lawsuit. Some of the more common ones are a:
motion to dismiss the case outright before answering the complaint;
motion for summary judgment for the court to make its decision when there is no dispute in facts and no need to proceed to trial,
motion to compel usually when a party is not providing documentary evidence or required information;
motion to strike usually when a party is violating an order;
motion to renew or reargue a previous motion; and
various pre-trial and post trial motions.

Pre-Trial
After the discovery stage, the parties must prepare for trial. This task is very time consuming as each party must develop its case and defenses so it is well prepared for the trial. This includes developing opening and closing statements, direct and cross examinations and jury instructions as well as preparing the witnesses.
Trial
Most people are familiar with the trial procedure. However, usually a civil trial is not a dramatic as a criminal trial mostly seen on television. The trial is usually on specific facts supporting a money damage claim or equitable relief. The trial could be a jury trial, or a non-jury trial. If it is a jury trial, the parties must pick the jury prior to trial.
Post-Trial
If the trial was a “bench trial,” wherein the Judge heard the case and not the Jury, the Judge may request each party to submit a post-trial memoranda or brief setting forth its case so the Judge can review the positions of each party prior to making a decision. After the Judge provides a decision, or a jury provides its findings, the losing party may attempt to vacate the decision or want to appeal the decision.
In conclusion, the stages of a civil lawsuit can involve cumbersome tasks. Depending on the parties involved in the action, many lawsuits can become extremely expensive and take years to complete. So, if you ever thought, “I am going to sue them,” or heard someone say “I am going to sue you,” think twice before getting involved in a lawsuit. Attempting settlement may save you money and time, and most importantly, peace of mind.
Feel free to contact me for further discussion at dbosco@boscolegal.com; or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. . The trial could be a jury trial, or a non-jury trial. If it is a jury trial, the parties must pick the jury prior to trial.
Post-Trial
If the trial was a “bench trial,” wherein the Judge heard the case and not the Jury, the Judge may request each party to submit a post-trial memoranda or brief setting forth its case so the Judge can review the positions of each party prior to making a decision. After the Judge provides a decision, or a jury provides its findings, the losing party may attempt to vacate the decision or want to appeal the decision.
In conclusion, the stages of a civil lawsuit can involve cumbersome tasks. Depending on the parties involved in the action, many lawsuits can become extremely expensive and take years to complete. So, if you ever thought, “I am going to sue them,” or heard someone say “I am going to sue you,” think twice before getting involved in a lawsuit. Attempting settlement may save you money and time, and most importantly, peace of mind.
Feel free to contact me for further discussion at dbosco@boscolegal.com; or feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn.