While alternative disputes resolution methods can be a much easier and less costly way to settle business disputes, if an agreement seems to far out of reach, then the only available option is likely to go forward with litigation. Litigation can be the more costly avenue to take, but it will give you the opportunity to present your information and come up with a final resolution. And litigation isn’t necessarily winner take all. The court may deice on a just outcome that resolves the matter with a compromise.
When taking a case to trial, there will be two sides, a defendant and plaintiff, although multiple parties may be involved on either side. You can decide to have your case heard by a judge only or a jury of your peers. They will be tasked with the duty of weighing all of the facts and evidence to make a determination under the laws that govern the specific dispute. These rulings will most likely be entered into the public record after being finalized.
The trial process
When proceeding to court, the process will start with a formal complaint filed by a plaintiff. During the filing, the defendant will receive a summons which will notify the defendant of the lawsuit and also provide them with a deadline for when they need to respond by. A date for the lawsuit will then be set, and the parties will need to gather all the information that they plan to present for their side of the case. This process is referred to as discovery and will include gathering records and evidence, and taking depositions from witnesses.
Prior to the trial date, the court will expect both parties to work toward a resolution out of court, through arbitration, formal mediation or informal settlement negotiations.
During the next part of the trial process, the parties will file various motions. Some motions may be filed to request additional information, while others may be procedural, such as requesting a change of venue, or to have the case heard by a judge, or jury. The processes that lead up to the actual court date can take many months, and will largely depend on the number of motions, as each one will have to heard and decided on.
After all of the motions have been settled, both parties will have their case presented on the court date. The burden of proof will lie with the plaintiff, who will have to prove that they have a valid case. The judge or jury will hand down their ruling at the completion of the trial. If either of the parties of the trial has valid reasons for questioning the verdict, then they can file an appeal with a higher court.
There are some instances where the plaintiff or their business is in a different jurisdiction than the defendant. If you are the plaintiff, you will most likely have to file the suit in the state where the defendant or their business is located.
Why is legal council so important in litigation?
Although there is no law stating either or both parties must be represented by legal counsel in the courtroom, proceeding with a commercial lawsuit without an experienced attorney is almost certain to be doomed to failure. They will be the driving force behind the litigation and help you properly present your case and evidence following the formal court rules. An attorney will aslo work towards any settlement option in the discovery or pre-trial period to bring the litigation to a close without the extra cost of taking it to trial. Your attorney will also be responsible for speaking to witnesses on both your side and the other. All plaintiffs and defendants have the right to go “pro se,” which means you wish to present your own case, though this is not usually advisable unless you have had formal legal training.
If you find that litigation will be your best course of action to resolve your business dispute, it is critical to have an experienced business attorney in your corner. An attorney can help you prepare and navigate through the formalities of court, work towards an agreeable settlement, and represent your best interest if the case proceeds to trial.