Pursuing legal action against a company is often an involved process with precise requirements. Those considering filing a lawsuit need to educate themselves on the sequence of events and legal protocols. This guide will outline the essential steps in the standard company lawsuit, from the initial client intake to the final disposition of the case.
Gaining familiarity with the progression of a civil action can help plaintiffs evaluate the strength of their claims and prepare an effective legal strategy. It also allows defendant companies to better understand their options and formulate an informed response. With the assistance of legal professionals, the parties can traverse the complex litigation landscape in a quest for a just resolution.
A class action lawsuit allows a group of people with a common grievance to file a lawsuit through representatives. Here are the key steps:
1. Identify the Class
The first step is to identify the group of people that have been harmed similarly. They need to have common injuries and a common defendant.
2. Find a Lead Plaintiff
You need representative plaintiffs, known as lead plaintiffs, to file the lawsuit on behalf of the class. They should have claims typical of the entire class.
3. Retain a Lawyer
Class action suits require experienced lawyers, so finding qualified legal counsel is crucial. The lawyers can advise if a class action is viable.
4. File the Complaint
The complaint is filed in court by the lead plaintiffs through their legal counsel. It outlines the defendant’s actions, the common injuries, and the proposed class.
5. Certify the Class
The court must certify that the class meets legal requirements before the suit can proceed as a class action. This ensures commonality of claims.
6. Provide Notice
Members of the proposed class must be notified of the action and given a chance to opt out of the class if they choose.
During discovery, evidence and information is exchanged between the parties to support the claims and defenses.
8. Settlement or Trial
Most class actions settle out of court. If not, the case proceeds to trial where a resolution is reached that binds the class members.
9. Distribute Settlement Funds
Filing a lawsuit against a company can seem intimidating given the complex legal procedures involved. However, understanding the key phases of litigation can provide clarity on what to expect. Here is a detailed breakdown of the standard steps in a civil lawsuit against a business:
Before filing a lawsuit, there are some preliminary steps to take:
- Consult an attorney – Have an initial consultation with a qualified lawyer to discuss your case. They can assess the merits of your claims and advise if litigation is the right path forward.
- Conduct investigation – Gather relevant documents, photographs, communications, contracts, and other evidence to support your allegations against the company.
- Send demand letter – Have your attorney send a formal letter to the company outlining your claims and demanding compensation or other remedies to settle prior to a lawsuit.
- File pre-litigation motions – If needed, your lawyer can file motions to preserve evidence or obtain documents from the company through the court before the lawsuit begins.
Filing the Complaint
This phase initiates the legal action:
- Drafting the complaint – Your attorney will prepare the civil complaint setting out the facts, allegations, legal claims, and relief sought from the court.
- Filing and serving – After filing the complaint with the court, the company must be officially served, typically through a process server. This triggers their legal duty to respond.
- Company’s answer – Within a prescribed timeframe, the company must file its answer addressing your claims and asserting any defenses or counterclaims.
This pre-trial information gathering phase can take months:
- Written discovery – This includes producing documents, answering written questions (interrogatories), and admitting certain facts.
- Depositions – Parties and witnesses provide oral testimony under oath in depositions setup by the attorneys. These are transcribed.
- Expert discovery – Experts may be retained to provide opinions and testimony on specialized matters, like economic losses.
- Motions to compel – If a party refuses to cooperate with discovery, the court can compel them through a motion.
Pretrial Motions and Conference
Various motions are filed and the court holds a pretrial conference:
- Dispositive motions – Motions filed to dismiss claims or obtain full or partial judgment before trial. This includes motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment.
- Pretrial conference – The judge meets with parties to discuss readiness for trial, expected length, potential witnesses, and other matters.
- Settlement conference – On request or order of the court, parties participate in mediation or arbitration to attempt resolving the dispute.
If no settlement is reached, the trial proceeds:
- Jury selection – For a jury trial, a pool of potential jurors are screened through voir dire and seated.
- Opening statements – Each side presents an overview of the evidence and arguments in their favor.
- Witness testimony – Witnesses are examined and cross-examined by the parties’ attorneys.
- Closing arguments – The attorneys make their final case to the jury summarizing the evidence and testimony.
- Jury deliberations – The jury deliberates in private and returns a verdict. The judge may overturn an unreasonable verdict.
Post-trial Motions and Appeal
Following the trial, parties can file motions and appeals challenging the verdict:
- Post-trial motions – The losing party may file motions for a new trial, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or to alter or amend the judgment.
- Appeals – The losing party can appeal the verdict or certain rulings to a higher court. The appellate court reviews the record and proceedings below for any reversible errors.
While the process is complex, having an experienced attorney to guide you through the phases of litigation is key to successfully pursuing or defending against a company lawsuit. Thorough preparation and strategic legal maneuvers give you the best chance at a favorable outcome.