By the end of today’s lesson, you should be able to: Describe the principles of civil law. Identify the types of civil lawsuits and describe the civil procedure.
Civil Law – A Review What is the main question asked in a civil case? What is a fair settlement? What is the purpose of civil law? To settle disagreements
Civil Law Lawsuit: cases in which a court is asked to settle a dispute. People file lawsuits because they believe that they have been harmed in one of the ways listed below and they want the courts to do something about it. (1)Someone has injured them physically (2)Someone owes them money (3)Someone has violated their rights
Principles of Civil Law Principle of Compensation Compensation: being “made whole” for harm caused by another person’s acts Damages: money that is paid in an effort to make up for a loss Sometimes damages can not make up for all of a loss Principle of Equity Equity: the use of general rules of fairness to settle conflicts Courts issue injunctions: court orders to do or not do a certain act Injunctions are meant to prevent any further harm.
Examples of Compensation My window is broken by the neighbor’s son. The compensation would be cost of a new window and its installation. Jack injured Jill. The compensation would include medical bills, lost wages (days she was too injured to work), and loss of quality of life (for pain she is still suffering). If Jill is paralyzed, the compensation would not make up for the harm done, because it would leave her “made whole” or in the same place as before the accident.
Examples of Equity A factory is polluting a neighborhood with harmful fumes. The court would issue an injunction forcing the factory to stop releasing the fumes into the air. My beagle, Dutch, bites the neighbor’s son. The court would issue an injunction forcing me to keep the dog fenced in so he wouldn’t bite anyone else. George’s employer won’t allow him to read the Bible during his lunch break. The court would issue an injunction forcing the employer to recognize George’s 1 st Amendment Freedom of Religion.
Property Cases Usually a case where the plaintiff (the one bringing the lawsuit) wants the defendant to pay compensation for damages to property - compensation Trespassing cases - equity
Consumer Cases Cases where the contract between the buyer and seller isn’t fulfilled by one side Contracts: legal agreements between buyers and sellers Buyers promise to pay for a good or service Sellers agree to meet certain standards Uniform Commercial Code is a set of laws to clarify legal issues concerning consumer cases Principles of Compensation and Equity
Housing Cases Involve relationships between landlords and tenants Lease is a contract that states the rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord. Tenants must pay rent and follow all terms of the lease Landlord must keep the rental unit safe and in good repair Principles of Compensation and Equity
Domestic Relations Cases Family Relationships Divorce Settlements Child Custody Child Support Principles of Compensation and Equity
Probate Cases How to divide property of the deceased Will: document that tells what is to be done with property once the person dies Issues such as is the signature real, was the person unfairly influenced, was the person thinking clearly It can take years for the court to divide the property. Probate courts deal with the principle of equity.
All Civil Cases... have the goal to make a fair settlement and to place responsibility where it belongs.
Legal Terms Plaintiff: person bringing the lawsuit Defendant: person being sued Complaint: a legal document that charges someone with having caused harm Answer: the defendant’s written response to a complaint Summons: document sent by the court announcing the defendant is being sued and ordering he or she to appear in court Pleadings: documents exchanged by each side that narrow down the legal points and issues of the trial
Legal Terms Discovery: process of gathering evidence before a trial Subpoena: a court order to produce a witness or document Deposition: record of answers to questions asked of witnesses before a trial
Court Procedure in a Civil Case Jack is the Plaintiff. His attorney files the lawsuit and makes a complaint. The court sends the defendant, Jill, a summons. The defendant’s attorney files a written answer. Jill’s and Jack’s attorneys exchange documents known as pleadings, subpoena witnesses or documents, and record the witnesses’ statements at the deposition. Settle out of court, case gets dismissed or case goes to court and both sides wait for a verdict.
Juries in a Civil Trial 7 th Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial in federal courts for civil cases that involve more than $20 Most civil cases are heard in state and local courts where the minimum amount is usually over $2,000 So every civil case is not guaranteed a jury trial. Juries are rarely used in equity cases. The jury does not have to reach a unanimous decision in a civil jury trial.
Burden of Proof in a Civil Trial In civil cases, the jury must be convinced “with a preponderance of evidence” meaning the jury decides which side has presented the most convincing and reasonable evidence Remember, a jury on a criminal trial must be convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a “reasonable doubt.”
Problems in the Civil Courts Court Delays – too many cases and not enough courtrooms and judges, takes a large amount of time to collect evidence, time on jury selection, court rules allowing lawyers to delay the trial High Costs – very expensive lawyer fees as well as filing fees, payment for expert witnesses, cost in time and inconvenience for parties involved in the case Need for Alternatives: Cases get dropped because it takes so long and cost so much to bring the case to trial
Problems in the Civil Courts To summarize, it is lengthy and expensive to bring a civil case to trial.
Comprehension Check Does compensation always make up for the harm done by another person? No. Why? Because the money paid does not always leave the injured “made whole” or in the same place as before
Comprehension Check What is the purpose of a lease between a landlord and tenant? To state the rights and responsibilities of the tenant and the landlord.
Comprehension Check Why do lawsuits take a long time to settle? Lack of Judges and Courtrooms Collection of Evidence Process of Jury Selection
Comprehension Check What is a contract? Legal agreement between buyers and sellers
Comprehension Check What is an example of a probate case? Distributing the property of a deceased person