Though it is preferable to resolve matters outside of court, there are some disputes between parties that can only be resolved by using the force of law. Attorneys at Dickson Frohlich have years of experience in all areas of civil litigation and are considered some of the most aggressive and innovative in their field. The following is a brief description of the litigation process:
Litigation generally refers to the process by which a controversy is disputed before the court. The legal process is designed to resolve issues between parties by using the force of the state through its judicial system. As you can imagine, the procedures and precedents that have developed over decades of lawsuits has created an intricate mechanism which is very difficult for parties on their own to process. There are essentially three basic phases in litigation:
The first step in commencing a lawsuit is for a complaint and summons to be drafted and properly served on an opponent. The people damaged and seeking redress through the courts are considered “plaintiffs”. Those who are alleged to have caused the damage and who are subject to the lawsuit, are called “defendants”. A complaint is a relatively small document which briefly describes the dispute at issue, and what the plaintiff is seeking for relief.
After commencing the suit, parties begin research and investigation as to their claims and defenses. This is called “discovery”, as these activities are meant to uncover information which bolsters their relative legal positions. This phase comprises the bulk of the litigation, as it also covers the time in which many attorneys bring dispositive motions, such as summary judgments. As one would expect, discovery often produces a clearer picture of the strength of a party’s legal position and can often push him towards settlement. It is difficult to compress all the procedural maneuvers arising during this phase, however, the most common forms of discovery are the following: (1) interrogatories – straightforward questions posed to the opponent, requiring a direct, written answer; (2) requests for production – requests to present, or allow access to, documents relevant to the lawsuit; (3) requests for admission – questions asserted which require either an admission or denial from the responding party; (4) depositions – similar to testimony at trial, depositions allow attorneys to directly question relevant witnesses or parties to the litigation. Their recollections are recorded by a court reporter, and can be used at trial as evidence. Though there are other aspects to discovery, these four are the most commonly used in litigation.
If the case has not been discharged through a settlement or dispositive motion, the matter is put to trial where a trier of fact (jury or judge) will make the final decision. The final holding will comprise a finding of facts and a legal pronouncement regarding the trier of fact’s interpretation of the law.