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Telos VG Law Identifies the Four Steps of a Lawsuit

07th November 2012
By Nancy Swenson in Legal
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Lawsuits can be very complicated and drawn out affairs, but they aren't always. In fact, many civil lawsuits are ended early in the litigation process by either a voluntary settlement or a decision to move into arbitration or mediation proceedings. Unless the parties agree to an early end by one of these methods, then civil litigation follows are particular path, as the pleadings are made, both parties go through discovery, the trial is held, and potentially an appeal is made. We would like to discuss what exactly all of this means in a little more detail.

1) The Pleadings -
The first step to civil litigation is to file the pleadings. This means that each side, or party, states their version of what happened. The plaintiff will be the first to do so, and their pleading is referred to as the "complaint". They file with the court and must also inform the defendant by formally giving them a copy. Their complaint must outline what they are suing for, be it something done or not done, what the negative consequences to them were, and how they feel it can legally be argued that they have a case against the defendant.

The defendant then proceeds to respond within a certain timeframe with their answer. This answer will give their story. They can either counter and file their own complaints against the plaintiff if they feel he/she is at fault. The plaintiff, instead of replying, sometimes questions the factual basis of the complaint, or asks for certain clarifications. The answer can also be a request of dismissal, either in whole or in part, of the suit, which, if granted would end the litigation there. This is not a one step process and can sometimes grown into many iterations of complaints, answers, replies, counter-claims, etc. until it is determined that the suit is defined and the particulars have been nailed down.

2) The Discovery -
The discovery is often the most lengthy part of the process, and is one of the most important if you want to win the case. Any good litigator is not only a good public speaker, but must also be able to research and have a good team to help them with this. Ultimately, this is what the discovery comes down to. It is the bringing together of information from various sources in order to build the case. Each party has their own story, so they will be looking at different sources, witnesses, evidence, etc. in order to try to paint the picture they believe to be true. There are different methods of gathering evidence from interviewing, requesting documents, requesting official depositions, studying the laws that pertain to the case, ask the other party for admissions, and much more. During this process the lawyers must be looking to both build their case and be prepared to counter the opposition. It is also common to call on an expert witness who will have specified knowledge that could be useful. Litigators can also make motion of various kinds even prior to a trial including asking to gain access to particular evidence, or have evidence excluded.

3) The Trial -

The trial is perhaps one of the best known stages. This is where the courtroom litigators come into play. It is important to remember that not all lawyers present in trials. Here, however, the mission is to support their party and to convince the judge or jury of the validity of their client's side of the argument. The first part of the trial is to submit a brief to the judge, which is essentially an outline of the party's plan of action including the evidence and arguments they plan to employ. When juries are selected there is a process to ensure that the jury will be as fair and unbiased as possible. The trial proceeds by the plaintiff's presentation, then the defendant's, and on occasion the plaintiff's rebuttal. After all of the arguments and evidence has been laid out, then each party has an opportunity to drive home their point with closing arguments. The jury, or the judge, consider the laws, the arguments, the evidence and after deliberation give their decision. Sometimes these decisions are challenged, and courses can even be thrown out at this stage. There is also a legal process by which the winner can seek at least partial reimbursement from the losing party.

4) The Appeal -

Litigation doesn't always end with the decision by the judge or jury. In America there is a tiered court system, which enables appeals. If a party is dissatisfied with the decision, they can request that the trial be brought to a higher court to be heard. Generally appellate courts merely review cases for evidence of legal error and regardless of whether or not they agree with the decision, will only overturn decisions if some sort of legal issue occurred with the trial. Usually they just review the proceedings of the trial, a new trial isn't held in these circumstances. In their "opinion", they state whether they will affirm or overturn the previous finding. There can me multiple appeals.


If you are looking for a Utah Lawyer or are going into Litigation in Salt Lake City, and you appreciated this article, we hope you will consider John Bogart at Telos VG Law. For an initial consultation, please visit to see what a great attorney at a respected law firm can do for you.

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