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The Civil Litigation Process in California: A Helpful Guide

Rokita Law

The Litigation Process

If you’re involved in litigation, the process can seem daunting. By taking the time to learn the basics of the litigation process, you will be able to learn the steps involved and how to prepare best so that you can help your attorney present your case in the best way possible. 

Step One: The Complaint | Litigation Process

The first step in any litigation is the filing of a complaint. The complaint is a document that sets forth the factual basis for the lawsuit and identifies the relief the plaintiff (the party who filed the lawsuit) seeks. Once the complaint is filed, it must be served on the defendant (the party against whom the lawsuit has been filed). The defendant then has 30 days to file a response to the complaint. 

Step Two: The Answer | Litigation Process

If the defendant does not file a response within 30 days, the plaintiff may request that the court enter a default judgment against the defendant. A default judgment is a ruling in favor of the plaintiff because the defendant failed to take action. However, if the defendant does file a response, then the litigation process proceeds as follows: 

Step Three: Discovery

The next step is discovery, which is the process where both sides exchange information about their cases. This usually takes place in the form of written questions (interrogatories), requests for documents, or depositions. A plaintiff may serve discovery ten days after the defendant is served with the complaint. A defendant may serve discovery any time after the lawsuit is filed. Interrogatories and requests for documents are written questions that a party must respond to within 30 days. A deposition is a form of oral discovery where the party being deposed is sworn under oath and testimony is taken by a court reporter. All parties to the action are obligated to participate in discovery. 

Step Four: Motions

Once a complaint is filed, the parties may exercise their right to utilize a selection of pre-trial motions in order to further their cause and seek justice. These motions may include requesting the Court issue an injunction to protect against harm occurring during the litigation, or filing a motion to amend the complaint to add additional causes of action. These motions present parties with an opportunity to seek relief prior to trial.

Step Five: Post-Discovery Motions

When discovery is complete and the dust has settled, the parties are ready to file their post-discovery motions with the court. This could be a dispositive motion, seeking to have the case dismissed, or a non-dispositive motion, requesting the court to decide on an evidentiary or procedural issue. If the dispositive motion is unsuccessful, the case will progress to trial.

Step Six: Trial

A trial is a pivotal moment in the legal process, where one party’s fate is determined by the court. It can be a tense and emotionally charged affair, with both sides presenting their evidence and arguments in a bid to win a favorable legal outcome. In a bench trial, the judge will hear the case and render a decision, while in a jury trial, the jury will be tasked with determining the verdict. The plaintiff in the case bears the burden of proof, meaning they have to provide evidence and make a convincing argument to win the case.

If you’re dealing with legal matters, you need an experienced professional on your side. Amanda Rokita, founder of Rokita Law, is the attorney you need to ensure your business litigation is handled with the utmost care. Schedule a consultation today to see how our team can help you navigate the complex world of business litigation. We’re committed to providing you with the best possible service, so you can rest assured knowing your case is in good hands.

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