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Facts - Books - News    U.S. Facts Of Law:

Typical Lawsuit Progress

Lawsuits begin with the plaintiff filing a complaint in a court of law.  After the initial complaint is filed the typical lawsuit progresses as outlined below.


After the court receives the complaint, they notify the defendant of the facts of the complaint and the time frame in which an answer must be filed.


The defendant may elect to file any number of pleadings asking that the complaint be dismissed, asking for a change of venue (location) or challenging the court's jurisdiction over the matter.

Pre-Trial Actions

After pleadings have been heard and answered, and the defendant has filed an answer to the complaint, the two sides may engage in discovery.  During discover both side provide the other with copies of evidence and witness statements that they will use at trail to prove their case.  If the evidence overwhelmingly supports either the plaintiff or the defendant, the to sides may settle the case before it goes to trial.


After discovery, the two sides prepare for trial.  The parties may ask that the trial be decided by a jury or may just ask for a bench trial where the judge decides the case.  A jury trial is a much more complicated and expensive process but may be requested if the stakes are high.

The plaintiff then presents the witnesses and evidence and evidence to support the complaint and the defendant may present present a defense with witnesses and other evidence.  The burden of proof at the trial is generally on the plaintiff.  The defendant may also present various motions throughout the trial to convince the judge to dismiss the case or not accept some of the plaintiff's evidence or witnesses.

After both sides have presented their case the case goes to the jury or judge for a decision.  They may come back with a judgment in favor of the plaintiff or find in favor of the defendant and dismiss the complaint.

At any time until a decision has been returned, the two parties may reach a settlement and end the trial.  The plaintiff may also drop the complaint at any time provided that the defendant has not filed a countersuit.


After the court has reached a final decision, either party normally may appeal the decision to a higher court, if they wish to do so.  The appellate court may decide to hear the case again or may not depending upon whether there were important legal issues or court errors it wants to review.  Appeals may go all the way to the State or Federal Supreme Court if the court will hear the case.


If a judgment is handed down for an injunction or action, the court and the authorities will enforce the injunction or action.

If the judgment includes a monetary award, the defendant may simply pay the judgment.  A corporation with large cash assets is usually good to pay the judgment.  A smaller entity, such as a person, may be a different matter.  The judgment holder may attach wages, bank accounts and other cash assets.  Sometimes liens may be placed on real estate.  Often the defendant with the judgment against them will hide cash assets or will have moved them to a friend or relative.  In this case, the judgment holder can summon the defendant into court and required under oath to disclose the location of bank accounts and other assets.  Quite often, cash and assets have been well hidden or there are none and the judgment goes uncollected.  Some collection agencies will attempt to collect a judgment for a large fee, of course.


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Typical Lawsuit Progress News
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Facts of Law descrbes the typical lawsuit

Facts of Law - Typical Lawsuit