Presentation on theme: "Chapter Seven: Civil Litigation. Involves legal action to resolve disputes between parties. In civil litigation, the plaintiff sues a defendant to recover."— Presentation transcript:
Chapter Seven: Civil Litigation
Involves legal action to resolve disputes between parties. In civil litigation, the plaintiff sues a defendant to recover money damages or other remedy for the alleged harm the defendant caused the plaintiff.
Pleadings Initiate the lawsuit Provides the Due Process notice Can consist of ◦ Complaint ◦ Petition ◦ Cross-complaint ◦ Reply ◦ Answer ◦ Counterclaim
Pleadings (cont.) The plaintiff, the party who is suing, files a complaint containing the basis of the lawsuit. ◦ Filed with the court and ◦ Served with a summons on the defendant
Pleadings (cont.) The complaint must either: ◦ Provide a general allegation of the wrongful conduct alleged (notice pleading) or ◦ Plead specific facts alleged, called fact pleading.
Pleadings (cont.) Time: Individual court rules provide a time within the initial complaint or petition must be served; Responsive pleading must be filed to avoid dismissal of the action or a default judgment. ◦ The responding party must file a responsive pleading (Answer) with the time limit allowed by the court.
Pleadings (cont.) Answer: An answer is filed by the defendant with the court and served on the plaintiff. It usually denies most allegations of the complaint.
Pleadings (cont.) Cross-Complaint: A cross-complaint is filed and served by the defendant if he or she countersues the plaintiff. ◦ The defendant is the cross-complainant and the plaintiff is the cross-defendant. The cross- defendant must file an Answer.
Pleadings (cont.) Intervention: A person not named in a lawsuit may have an interest, and seek to become involved by way of an intervention Consolidation: If there are several suits that duplicate facts & legal issues, they may be consolidated in the interests of judicial economy
Pleadings (cont.) Statute of Limitations: The period of time within which a suit must be brought Varies by jurisdiction, and by the nature of the claim Will begin to “run” when the plaintiff knows or should have known of the injury ◦ Date of the accident, breach ◦ Date of majority of the plaintiff
E-filings in Court Paralegals are at the forefront of e-litigation where many of the documents filed in court are done electronically. The technology currently is available for implementing electronic filing—e-filing—of pleadings, briefs, and other documents related to a lawsuit.
Additional Search Techniques Concept searching ◦ Compares word patterns, incorporated with Boolean searches Paper reviews (converted into hard copy & reviewed) Electronic reviews ◦ Look at “loose” electronic files in their “native” format ◦ Use a local litigation database ◦ Work with an online document review repository hosted by an e-discovery service provider
Discovery Discovery is a step in the litigation process where the plaintiff and the defendant share information relevant to their dispute.
Discovery (cont.) The purpose of Discovery is to: ◦ Evaluate the client’s case ◦ Understand strengths/weaknesses of the opponent’s case ◦ Preserve testimony ◦ Potentially facilitate settlement ◦ Learn information to impeach a witness
Discovery (cont.) Depositions: Oral testimony given under oath to either a party or a witness. Purpose: Preserves evidence Helps prepare for trial Creates a sworn body of testimony which can be used to impeach the witness on the stand if testimony changes
Discovery (cont.) Interrogatories: ◦ Written questions ◦ May be highly detailed ◦ Propounded only to parties to the suit ◦ Must be answered in writing, unless an objection is made to the question ◦ Answered under oath
Discovery (cont.) Production of Documents: documents under the control of one party may be requested by the other side Used in preparing the case Usually provided by the party in control, but the work may shift to the requesting party to examine them on-site if their production would ◦ Be too voluminous ◦ Disrupt ordinary business activities ◦ In permanent storage
Discovery (cont.) Physical exams are used to determine the extent of injuries when that is the basis for the claim (personal injury, workers’ compensation) Mental exams may be ordered if mental trauma is the basis for damages (infliction of emotional distress) or if competency is an issue
Discovery (cont.) Requests for Admission: Written requests issued by one party to the lawsuit to the other asking that certain facts or legal issues be admitted as true. E-Discovery: Much evidence is in digital form. A case can hinge on a party’s ability to conduct electronic discovery.
Pretrial Motions Motion to dismiss ◦ Demurrer (12(b)(6) motion) – there is no legal claim ◦ Made before the defendant answers If granted, Δ need not answer If denied, Δ is given additional time to answer ◦ If granted, plaintiff may be given time to amend the complaint Failure to do so will result in a dismissal of the suit
Pretrial Motions (cont.) Motion for Judgment of the Pleadings ◦ If all the facts alleged in the pleadings are true, movant would win Summary Judgment motion ◦ If there are no factual issues, there is no need for the trier of fact (usually jury), and the judge, as the trier of law, can make a decision without a trial ◦ Additional affidavits of fact may be considered, but they cannot give rise to a dispute, since that would defeat the motion
Settlement Conference Pretrial hearing ◦ Facilitates settlement ◦ Identifies the trial issues ◦ Establishes timelines for motions & discovery ◦ May result in diversion into ADR
Trial A Right guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution Jury trialJudge – trier of law Jury – trier of fact Bench trialJudge – trier of law Judge – trier of fact
Trial (cont.) Stages of Trial Jury selection (voir dire) Opening statements Plaintiff’s case Defendant’s case Rebuttal & rejoinder Closing arguments Jury instructions (charge to the jury) Jury deliberations Judgment
Trial (cont.) Jury Selection The array (jury pool) is called Prospective jurors fill out a questionnaire Examined by lawyers and/or judge as to possible bias in the case May be excused “for cause” (potential or actual bias) or by a peremptory challenge (based on case strategy) Jurors may be isolated from outside influences (sequestered) if the judge feels it’s necessary
Trial (cont.) Opening Statements – summary of the issues that will be presented Plaintiff’s case -- attorney calls witnesses to give testimony & introduce evidence ◦ Defendant’s attorney has an opportunity to cross-examine within the scope of the direct exam ◦ Plaintiff’s attorney can ask questions about matters that fall within the scope of the cross- examination ◦ Plaintiff must meet the burden of proof
Trial (cont.) Defendant’s case ◦ Rebut plaintiff’s evidence ◦ Prove any affirmative defenses asserted ◦ Prove any allegation made in the cross-complaint or counterclaim Rebuttal witnesses are called by the plaintiff to answer defendant’s claims Rejoinder witnesses are called by the defendant to answer plaintiff’s rebuttal
Trial (cont.) Closing Arguments are made at the end of the presentation of evidence ◦ Each attorney makes an argument to convince the jurors to accept his or her side of the story ◦ This is persuasive argument, not evidence Jury Instructions are tendered by each side, chosen by the judge, who reads them to the jury, explaining the law to be applied to the facts
Trial (cont.) Jury deliberations are conducted outside of the courtroom, and continue until the jury has reached a verdict or they decide they are unable to do so The judge hears the verdict & enters a judgment ◦ Based upon the jury verdict, or ◦ N.O.V., notwithstanding the verdict (which cannot, as a matter of law, be upheld), or ◦ Remittitur (or additur), having to do with the amount of damages determined by the jury
Appeal Once there is a final judgment, the losing party can appeal if ◦ He or she is the defendant in a criminal case ◦ There is a timely notice of appeal filed ◦ There are grounds for appeal (errors of law) The appeal usually consists of written briefs of law & possibly oral arguments Usually heard by three judges
Appellate Decisions The court can affirm the lower court’s decision, rejecting the claim made by the appellant The court can determine that the appellant’s claim was valid, and that errors occurred. They can reverse the outcome and send the matter back to the trial court (remand) for retrial The appellate can only review the law, not the factual findings of the lower court