CIVIL LITIGATION LAW
Television and films tend to portray civil litigation as a trial between two lawyers attempting to out-snark one another to woo a jury to a large verdict. In reality, civil litigation is a complicated and strategy-driven process governed by the Arizona (or Federal) Rules of Civil Procedure. These rules dictate how, when, and why your lawyer pursues various actions within the lawsuit.
It is probably likely that you wouldn’t trust yourself to perform surgery on yourself. Similarly, you should almost certainly hire an expert to assist you with your lawsuit. There are many questions and issues the lay person probably cannot answer including forum selection, the proper discovery vehicle, how to object to evidence, and many other complicated issues. At St. Clair Law, we have been litigating civil matters for decades, and can guide through all of the ins and outs of civil litigation.
What Types of Lawsuits Do You Help With?
We have assisted plaintiffs and defendants in many types of civil litigation including:
1.) Contract Claims
2.) Adversary Proceedings in Bankruptcy
3.) Negligence Claims
4.) Family Will and Trust Disputes
5.) Property Claims including Adverse Possession, Encroachment, Nuisance, Home Owners Disputes, Etc.
6.) Intellectual Property Claims including trade name infringement
7.) Collections and Enforcement of Judgments, including nondischargeability actions
8.) Business Disputes
This list is not exhaustive. If you believe you have a viable lawsuit, please contact our firm at the earliest possible chance.
What Happens When I Sue or Get Sued?
The life of a lawsuit can be divided into a number of distinct stages. Each stage carries with it different strategies and obligations on the parts of both parties. Generally, the lawsuit can be broken up into the following stages:
1.) Initial Assessment: At the initial assessment, you will explain the basis of your claim and give as much information as possible. We will assist you in apprising you of what claims we believe you can pursue, and the time frames for doing so. We will also counsel you on issues such as where to file your claim which can be a very strategic decision.
2.) Complaint and Answer: The lawsuit begins with the plaintiff filing a Complaint against the defendant. At this point, the defendant usually files an Answer, a Motion to Dismiss, or allows the plaintiff to win by Default.
3.) Discovery: Forget about what you remember about Boston Legal. During the Discovery stage, every party to the lawsuit gets to find out what every other party knows and intends to present into evidence. Discovery follows after the defendant files an Answer. At this stage, the parties work on building their cases by locating evidence such as witnesses and documents. The parties will also begin taking depositions of the parties and the witnesses.
4.) Summary Judgment: Many cases will be decided on what is called “summary judgment.” Summary judgment means that the parties aren’t really disputing any facts and that the law supports the position of one of the parties. Summary judgment usually follows from discovery because at this point the parties can eliminate facts not in contention. Summary judgment is decided by the assigned judge.
5.) Settlement: Often, parties will settle a matter after concluding discovery. This is because discovery tends to reveal how strong or weak the lawsuit appears to be. Parties often like to settle claims outside of court to avoid any uncertainty of sending a claim to a jury and to avoid further expenses.
6.) Pre-Trial: Pre-trial is the stage right before a trial when the parties finish disclosing their evidence, select a jury, and decide on how trial will proceed. Much of the pre-trial strategy relates to jury selection and keeping evidence out of court.
7.) Trial: The trial is where the parties present their evidence to the judge and jury. Trials can be lengthy or brief depending on the claims involved. Trials are very expensive and require the attorney to be present at all times to present evidence and to continuously examine and cross-examine the witnesses. s
8.) Appeal: After the trial, a party may wish to appeal the verdict or judgment to an appellate court. Appeals briefs are often very expensive and require extremely careful drafting. Often, a party will appeal where s/he believes the judge interpreted the law incorrectly, or where s/he believes the jury erred in some way.
9.) Collection and Enforcement: If your lawsuit grants you a money judgment, then you can generally begin collection efforts against the other party. This can include actions such as wage garnishments, attaching the judgment to property, and other forms of relief.
How Much Will it Cost to File My Lawsuit?
The exact amount of fees required to pursue a lawsuit is impossible to predict. Generally, we can offer you a ballpark figure of how much we believe it will cost to pursue your lawsuit during the initial consultation.
The filing fees for a lawsuit are available from the appropriate court website.
Will I be awarded my attorneys’ fees if I win my lawsuit?
Perhaps. Certain civil proceedings allow the court to grant an award of attorneys’ fees while others do not. For instance, many contracts provide that the winning party be paid any attorneys’ fees and costs. On the other hand, attorneys’ fees are not usually appropriate in negligence cases.
Even if your claim allows for attorneys’ fees, the court usually has discretion whether to award fees or not and for how much.
I have a judgment, but am having difficulties collecting. Can your firm assist me in collections?
Absolutely. We have experience collecting on all sorts of judgments ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often, simply getting a judgment is not as difficult as enforcing the judgment. The bottom line is that it benefits our firm when our clients get paid on their judgments. We therefore vigorously pursue collection efforts for our clients.
Collection remedies typically consist of the following:
1.) Writ of Garnishment. A garnishment is a collection remedy where the debtor’s employer pays a portion of the debtor’s paycheck to the creditor. This amount is usually 15-25% of the debtor’s paycheck. Garnishments have the advantage of being relatively inexpensive and simple, but they typically mean that the judgment will be paid over a longer period of time.
Garnishments can also be obtained against a debtor’s bank account. This allows the creditor to obtain funds directly from the debtor’s bank account. These types of garnishments can get the creditor paid quickly, but the creditor must first know where the debtor banks.
2.) Writs of Execution and Provisional Remedies. These next series of remedies are those where the creditor attaches the judgment to the debtor’s property. A creditor can attach a judgment to both real estate and to personal property. Given certain conditions, this can permit the sheriff to seize the property and sell the property on behalf of the creditor to pay off the judgment.
3.) Charging Orders. A charging order is quite similar to a writ of execution, but a charging order attaches to the debtor’s interest in a business. Thus, when the debtor would normally get paid dividends or other payments from the business, this amount is instead sent to the creditor to pay off the judgment.