Litigation refers to the conduct of a lawsuit. Plaintiffs and defendants are referred to as litigants, and the attorneys that represent them are known as litigators. Litigation includes a series of steps that can result in a court trial, and ultimately lead to a resolution between both parties.
The Litigation Process
Prior to filing a lawsuit, the plaintiff will make demands of the defendant that will help resolve the issue at hand. If the defendant refuses those demands, the plaintiff will serve court summons, and file the complaint with the trial courts. The complaint must mention the issue at hand, how the defendant is responsible, and mention the resolution that the plaintiff wishes to receive (usually monetary damages).
If filing the lawsuit alone does not result in a resolution, the plaintiff will start the discovery process. During this period, the will ask the defendant to answer questions about the dispute, and might include a deposition which will be recorded by a court reporter. The discovery process is also used by the defendant to learn about the plaintiff’s case. It can take weeks or even years, depending on the case, to complete discovery.
After discovery is complete, most courts recommend that both sides attend a settlement conference to resolve the issue without going to trail. However, if both parties cannot resolve the issue amongst themselves, the matter will proceed to the courts. Usually, prior to the start of trial, one or both parties will try to settle the issue to avoid spending on court proceedings.
Once trial starts, both sides will provide evidence to support their side of the argument, and ask the jury or court to decide. Sometimes, the defendant will decide to settle if they feel the plaintiff has made a strong argument for their case. If the plaintiff has a weak case, the defendant can ask the court to dismiss the case. At the end of trial, the jury or judge must decide which side made the better argument according to the law.
In case the defendant loses, they can also ask that the court dismiss the jury verdict or reduce the damages awarded to the plaintiff. These requests can be dismissed or granted at the discretion of the court. There are also certain appeals that can be made over a specified period of time post trial.