Typical Steps in a Lawsuit


Here is the sequence of steps in a typical lawsuit:

1. Pleadings – set out all claims and defences

2. Production of evidence

3. Discovery/Deposition – cross-examination under oath

4. Undertakings – for further material

5. Pre-trial Conference with a judge

6. Trial and Judge’s Decision

7. Appeal of Judge’s Decision

How Does It Begin?

You make a claim by starting a legal process. Your lawyer prepares paperwork, which could be an application, statement of claim or summons filed with a court.

You file your papers at the courthouse. The other side must file a response and it sets out their story.

These documents help the judge understand the issues involved in your dispute.

Steps in a Typical Lawsuit

All persons involved in the lawsuit set out their answers to your claim, including possible defenses. These court documents are referred to as pleadings.

After pleadings are exchanged, each person produces a list of documents and evidence they will rely on in court. This is the productions stage.

You then exchange documents and witness lists. Your lawyer normally arranges appointments to question the parties under oath on their evidence. This process is called discovery. This takes place without any judicial officers being present.

At discovery or deposition, all lawyers will be present. Your evidence is recorded and transcribed. Each party can pay to receive a copy of the discovery transcripts.

After this, you often need to produce additional evidence to prepare for the trial. This may involve the parties fulfilling undertakings, which are given at discovery, to produce additional information.

Pretrial conference – A meeting before trial with a judge and lawyers to discuss trial procedures and often to discuss settlement

Once undertakings are completed, a pre-trial conference is scheduled. Pre-trial or case conference briefs are prepared to summarize each party’s claims and settlement positions.

A pre-trial judge – who will not be your trial judge – reviews the briefs. The parties and their lawyers meet with the pre-trial judge.

The pre-trial judge hearing the matter may help simplify or reduce the issues for a trial.

Prepare for court, but sue for peace.

Are you ready for trial? Read the next post to find out.

For more on mediation basics, read the MrWills.com Guide on Estate Mediation.