Odds are at one time or another, each of us will have a dispute with someone else.  It could be as simple as a dispute between neighbors over boundary lines or as complicated as a breach of contract between multi-million dollar companies.  More often than not, the parties are able to come to an agreement without involving an attorney, however, when the parties are not able to work out a settlement, consultation with an attorney is  typically the next step to ensure each party's rights are protected.  Below is an overview of the civil litigation process.
Generally, civil litigation is the term given to a legal dispute that involves specific performance or money damages, as opposed to criminal sanctions.   The person or entity that initiates the lawsuit is referred to as the "plaintiff," and the person or entity being sued is referred to as the "defendant."  The lawsuit is initiated by the plaintiff's filing of a "complaint" in federal court or a "petition" in Oklahoma state court, which sets forth the claim for relief for the wrongful conduct or damages caused by the defendant.  The complaint or petition will also be served on the defendant and give notice to the defendant that a lawsuit has been initiated.  The defendant will then respond to the complaint or petition by filing an "answer" with the court.
There may be other motions filed with the court during and at the initiation of the lawsuit, but after the filing of the complaint or petition and answer, the parties will enter the "discovery" phase of the lawsuit.  During discovery, the parties seek to find information about the case, and do so by written discovery (which could include a series of questions to the opposing party) or by asking questions of witnesses under oath (also known as a deposition).  At any time during this process, the parties may be negotiating a "settlement," which is basically an agreement to end or forego a lawsuit on terms that both the plaintiff and defendant can accept.  Although both parties will need to compromise to obtain a settlement, a settlement is often preferred because both parties will know the outcome and will not have to face the uncertainty and expense that a trial brings.
If the parties are unable to come to a settlement during the discovery phase, a trial will begin at some point after the completion of the discovery phase.  There may be pre-trial motions at this time as well.  After the results of a trial are obtained, the case may continue on through the appeals process, depending on whether the non-prevailing party wishes to appeal the judgment.
The preceding is for general informational purposes only and not meant to provide legal advice.  Please contact us if you would like us to review any civil litigation matter with you.
Click here to return to the BULLEIGH LAW FIRM's services page.