It’s often best to settle a dispute out of court. But if your business can’t resolve an issue with a vendor, employee, customer, or shareholder, you may need to pursue a solution through the legal system. If there’s an irreconcilable disagreement over the facts of the case or the law surrounding those facts, you may turn to litigation for a solution. In other words, you file a lawsuit to get a final say in the matter.
The prospect of going to court is stressful. Not only are the terminology and jargon used during litigation unfamiliar to most people, but the trial process itself can feel quite foreign. Zinnlaw is here to help. Our lead attorney Brian D. Zinn specializes in litigation and contract law. That’s why we composed this guide to the trial process, which we hope will help clear up any confusion you have so you’ll know what to expect. By letting you know ahead of time, exactly what to expect, we also hope to help alleviate the anxiety lawsuits can cause.
Here’s what happens before the trial …
Pleadings: After a lawsuit is filed, each party will file papers with the court known as “pleadings.” The documents serve to outline each party’s side of the dispute.
The Complaint: Any litigation process begins with this, when the plaintiff files its Complaint with the court. The plaintiff also formally delivers a copy of the Complaint to the defendant, the other party in the dispute. The Complaint describes the defendant’s actions and how they were harmful, as well as the legal basis for holding the defendant responsible for that harm.
The Answer: After the defendant receives the Complaint, it has 20 days to file an Answer to the Complaint. In the Answer, the defendant will lay out its side of the dispute. The defendant also may file what is known as a Counterclaim against the plaintiff. In a Counterclaim, the defendant alleges the plaintiff also has harmed the defendant and should be held liable.
The plaintiff may Answer the Counterclaims with a reply or ask the defendant to clarify claims or correct factual allegations or legal theories. You also may ask the court to dismiss all or part of the Counterclaim. Depending on how you proceed, the Complaint and Answer may be amended. Once the Complaint, Answer and any replies have been finalized, the issues for the court to settle officially are defined.
Brian D. Zinn is originally from Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts, he went on to Boston University’s School of Law where he attained his Juris Doctor.
Prior to being admitted to the Florida Bar in May of 2005, he had already been admitted to practice law in: the State Courts of New York and New Jersey, the District of Columbia, the United States District Courts for the Southern District of New York and the District of New Jersey, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court.