Civil litigation can be prolonged, expensive and complex. Each case is usually different. However, there are certain standard procedures that are generally followed in most cases.
After the dispute evolves, the parties ought to try to resolve the dispute through informal means, including prelitigation discussions, and negotiations, which can be greatly facilitated by the assistance of able legal counsel. If prelitigation negotiations fails, generally the complaining party, as a plaintiff, can start a lawsuit.
The first step in a lawsuit is the filing of a Summons and Complaint against the other party as a defendant, which lays out the basic background facts and legal claims in the litigation. The other party generally has 20 days to file an Answer and any counterclaim that it might have against the party who started the lawsuit. Often, if there are multiple parties, there may be a variety of claims made, including cross-claims between defendants and third party actions against others who may be required to indemnify the defendant for some or all of any judgment against the defendant.
The next step is for the parties to engage in discovery. This process can be long. The discovery process consists of interrogatories, which must be answered under oath by the other party. In addition, parties are required to submit pertinent documents to each other. Subpoenas may be issued to nonparties requiring them to produce documents as well. Depositions also are usually taken, which consist of lawyers questioning parties and nonparty witnesses in the lawsuit under oath.
During or following the discovery process, the parties may make various motions to the court, seeking to have all, or some of the issues resolved in the case by a judge without the need for a trial, most commonly through motions to dismiss or for summary judgment.
Depending upon the outcome of the motions, the parties will usually participate in further settlement discussions and, in many cases, be required to participate in Alternative Dispute Resolution procedures, such as mediation or nonbinding arbitration.
Over 90% of cases are resolved prior to trial. Of these, about half of the remaining cases are tried to juries, and about half are tried by a judge alone. Following the outcome of the trial, any party generally may appeal the decision once, in Minnesota to the Court of Appeals.
If you would like more information about the civil litigation, please contact us by using this site's e-mail or calling us at (612) 339-4295.