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Your standard lawsuit generally follows the same trajectory










A problem.


It's either theirs or yours. Some person or entity has either wronged you or claims to have been wronged by you. In the pre-litigation-stage, an attorney is going to analyze the claims or defenses that may be subject to any potential lawsuit being considered or anticipated. Typically, this analysis is the result of the client's initial story.


For example, a client may suspect they're about to be sued by their business partner for breach of contract. Perhaps there's a partnership agreement detailing each partner's obligations and duties to the other. An attorney will conduct the initial interview, analyze the facts making up the contract and supposed breach, and then lay out the various client options. 

Either side you land on, the attorney should give you your likelihood of success based on the facts and existing law. If litigation can be avoided, your attorney should discuss with you how to resolve the matter informally to avoid unexpected costs and headaches.

For a defendant,

there are multiple

options at the start

of a lawsuit.

But an answer usually makes the most sense.


If informal resolution isn't possible, then in the litigation-stage one party will have filed a formal complaint against the other party (or, depending, petitioned for arbitration).

Such a complaint is the commencement of a lawsuit. After being served, the other side will then have an opportunity to respond. This will be an answer, some kind of motion to strike, demurrer (or a combination of the latter two), answer and cross-complaint, or some other initial response. 

The complaint and answer are the "pleadings." Most issues going forward will be framed by these pleadings.

Without a doubt, the most involved stage in any civil matter. Discovery is the formal name given to either side's ability to compile information necessary to prove or disprove the lawsuit.

In California, all relevant evidence is admissible in court. This rule of law gives all parties to litigation a very wide berth in "discovering" information - from one another, and from any other person or entity that may hold such relevant evidence.


The Civil Discovery Act dictates most forms of discovery


Be careful. The same law(s) call for mandatory sanctions if a party doesn't do their part in discovery.  

Litigation can be expensive.


Aside from attorney fees, a party may ultimately be responsible for court reporter fees, jury fees, expert witnesses, filing fees, and related costs.

A good trial strategy, then, including a litigation budget, is of the utmost important.


Time to prove-up or shut-up. The closest most cases get to trial is getting a "trial date." Otherwise, a vast majority of lawsuits settle before a jury is questioned. 

For good reason, of course. Jury trials are laborious, time-intensive exercises, where both sides present their evidence in hopes members of their community will believe one story over the other.

Oftentimes, parties may waive their right to jury trial and allow the judge to determine both the facts and the application of the law to those facts. This is called a bench trial.

A good attorney will know - depending on the client's cause or defense, and the evidence supporting either - whether to forgo a jury trial in favor of a bench trial (or vice versa).

If somehow the case doesn't settle, and it actually goes through to trial, and a jury or judge makes findings necessary to support each cause of action or defense, the decision to follow will be reduced to a "judgment." That is one side's formal declaration of victory over the other side.

Typically, a judgment has a finding of liability (or no liability), and an award of damages.


Most trials end in money judgments.


But filing an appeal does not prevent the winning side  from collecting or  enforcing their money judgment.

A lot of cases can end in the beginning (at the demurrer-stage).

Some end with motions - for summary judgment, for example.

The judgment to follow would be appealed.

Beware of  jurisdictional issues. Only an appealable order or final judgment can be reviewed.


You lost the entire thing. Or a part of it. Or you won, but there's a portion of the judgment you believe is in legal error. Perhaps you're shocked by what evidence was admitted, and can't understand how that evidence can support the jury's findings against you.

Well, you can appeal to a higher court.

Doing so will take the entire case out of the trial court's hands and into the hands of the appellate district or division. But be ye warned: the appellate courts, or "reviewing courts," only look for prejudicial error, some other abuse of discretion by the trial court, or a deficiency of the evidence. It. Is. Not. A. Re-trial.

In fact, most people lose their appeal too. Statistically, one has far better odds at a blackjack table. But even trial courts make mistakes, and a competent attorney will be able to properly advise their client if adequate grounds exist for a viable appeal.


Depending on the situation, most times a case comes to an end after a judgment is entered (following a jury or bench trial). Approximately sixty days later, the winning side will begin to collect the judgment against the loser (assuming the loser doesn't immediately pay the judgment amount).


But if one did appeal, and lost that appeal, that's usually the end of the road. 

In all of this, from beginning to end:

THE Law Office of Adam Dolce CAN HELP YOU

  • Consumer Litigation /Fraud Actions

  • Family Law/Dissolution

  • Professional Negligence (Legal/Medical Malpractice)

  • Business Litigation /Commercial Disputes

  • Breach of Contract

  • Elder Abuse

  • Foreclosure Defense

  • Unlawful Detainer

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