Business people who are not familiar with litigation often do not anticipate the many stages of a lawsuit and how long the process can take. Most business cases follow a typical pattern.
- Pre-lawsuit Demand. Before filing a lawsuit, the lawyer for the party making the claim usually sends a demand. Making your demand realistic, and seriously evaluating a demand you receive, can avoid a lawsuit.
- Complaint. Filing a complaint with the court starts the lawsuit. The complaint must give notice of the claim’s basics, not every detail.
- Motion to Dismiss or Answer. If the facts alleged in the complaint do not support a claim by law, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss, asking for the court to throw out the case. If the facts are in dispute, the defendant answers the allegations, and can make counterclaims.
- Initial Disclosures. Arizona state court rules require detailed disclosures of the facts, legal theories, witnesses, experts and documents that each side believes support its position.
- Discovery. Each party can send written questions, requests for admission and requests for production of documents to the other side, and take depositions of witnesses. Discovery is often time-consuming and expensive.
- Pre-trial Motions. Motions for summary judgment ask the court to rule in your favor on all or part of the case based on the undisputed facts. Other motions may seek to clarify the case, or limit evidence.
- Mediation. Settlement discussions often occur. Experienced lawyers may seek mediation earlier, before significant expense is incurred.
- Trial. Trial can be either to a jury or to a judge. A jury trial takes longer, and is more expensive than a trial to a judge.
- Post-trial Motions and Appeal. Motions after trial may seek to amend or alter the judgment, or seek a new trial. The losing party usually may appeal the trial result.
- Enforcement. Finally, the successful party can enforce its judgment.
George Krauja is a director with Fennemore Craig. He is an attorney and a CPA, and concentrates his practice in business litigation and real estate litigation