The word litigation has many definitions. Some define it as an action brought in court to prosecute a legal right; others define it simply as a judicial controversy. Regardless of the definition you choose, litigation can be intimidating. Interactions with attorneys, depositions, discovery, hearings before the judge, and maybe even a trial before a jury, can be strange and imposing processes that create anxiety on the litigant. Education as to the process can help alleviate some of that anxiety.
The litigation attorneys at Smith Simmons want to provide more clarity as to the litigation process through a series of posts on the various stages of litigation. Today’s post by Roe Simmons discusses the initial stage of litigation that starts the process.
Litigation comes in many forms: a loved one suffered an injury or death; a business relationship failed; a marriage failed; someone failed to perform their end of an agreement. The one thing all of these scenarios have in common is how they begin. The injured party files a Petition in a District Court alleging a dispute with the Defendant.
When the Petition is filed a summons is issued by the Court Clerk. A summons is the legal document that must be received by the Defendant notifying them that they have been sued. The Defendant, identified in the petition as the individual or company who allegedly caused the harm, is served the petition through a process server or sheriff. This can sometimes take a little bit of time and effort if you have a Defendant who makes an effort to avoid being served.
The Defendant generally has twenty (20) days to file an appropriate answer or other responsive pleading addressing the allegations listed in the petition.
The filing of the petition in any litigation case is the initial shot fired in the battle. The initial pleading stage of litigation is critical to the success or failure of any case. Including the appropriate allegations and causes of action will present the arguments to be made in court at the appropriate time and will help frame the case for purposes of discovery.
We will discuss the subsequent phases of litigation in future posts such as, the answer, discovery, depositions, motions, hearings, and trial. It is important to have a working knowledge of the process in order to better assist your attorney in presenting your case.
The litigation attorneys at Smith Simmons are prepared to answer your questions relating to your case. Contact us today.