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Encyclopedia > Lawsuit
Civil Procedure in the U.S.
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In American law, a lawsuit is a civil action brought before a court in which the party commencing the action, the plaintiff, seeks a legal remedy. One or more defendants are required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint. If the plaintiff is successful, judgment will be given in the plaintiff's favor, and a range of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose an injunction to prevent an act or compel an act. A declaratory judgment may be issued to prevent future legal disputes. Image File history File links Gnome-globe. ... A Civil Action is a 1998 film, starring John Travolta (as plaintiffs attorney Jan Schlichtmann) and Robert Duvall, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Harr. ... Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the process that courts will follow when hearing cases of a civil nature (a civil action, as opposed to a criminal action). ... The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern civil procedure in the United States district courts, or more simply, court procedures for civil suits. ... Civil procedure doctrines are rules developed by case law as opposed to being set down in codes or legislation, which, together with Court Rules / Codes, define the steps that a person involved in a civil lawsuit can, may, or can not take. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Subject matter jurisdiction is a legal term used in civil procedure to indicate that a case must be entered in the proper court of law based on the nature of the claim. ... Diversity jurisdiction is a term used in civil procedure to refer to the situation in which a United States district court has subject matter jurisdiction to hear a civil case because the parties are diverse, meaning that they come from different states. ... Personal jurisdiction, jurisdiction of (or over) the person, or jurisdiction in personam is the power of a court to require a party (usually the defendant) or a witness to come before the court. ... In the United States, removal jurisdiction refers to the power of a defendant to move a lawsuit filed in state court to the Federal district court of the original courts district. ... Venue is the location where a case is heard. ... A change of venue is the legal term for moving a trial to a new location. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... In the law, a pleading is one of the papers filed with a court in a civil action, such as a complaint, a demurrer, or an answer. ... A legal motion is a procedural device in law to bring a limited, contested matter before a court for decision. ... Service of process is the procedure employed to give legal notice to a person (defendant etc. ... In general use, a complaint is an expression of displeasure, such as poor service at a store, or from a local government, for example. ... In the law, a cause of action is a recognized kind of legal claim that a plaintiff pleads or alleges in a complaint to start a lawsuit. ... In law, a class action is an equitable procedural device used in litigation for determining the rights of and remedies, if any, for large numbers of people whose cases involve common questions of law and fact. ... The U.S. Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, 28 U.S.C. Sections 1332(d), 1453, and 1711-1715, grants federal courts original jurisdiction over certain mass actions and class actions (forms of civil action) in which the amount in controversy exceeds $5 million, and any of the members... In common law civil procedure, a demurrer is a pleading by the defendant that contests the legal sufficiency of the complaint without admitting or denying the allegations therein. ... In the common law, an answer is the first pleading by a defendant, usually filed and served upon the plaintiff within a certain strict time limit after a civil complaint or criminal information or indictment has been served upon the defendant. ... An affirmative defense is a defense used in litigation between private parties in common law jurisdictions. ... The reply is a response by plaintiff to defedants answer. ... A Counterclaim is made by the defendant to a civil procedure, in a main actions against the plaintiff or against the plaintiff and other persons. ... A cross-claim is a claim brought against a co-party in the same side of a lawsuit. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Impleader is procedural device before trial in which a party joins a third-party into a lawsuit because that third-party is liable to an original defendant. ... Interpleader is a device allowed in U.S. civil litigation. ... In law, intervention is a procedure to allow nonparties to join ongoing litigation, either as a matter of right or at the discretion of the court, without the permission of the original litigants. ... Look up trial in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party through the law of civil procedure can request documents and other evidence from other parties or can compel the production of evidence by using a subpoena or through other discovery devices, such as requests for... In law, interrogatories are a formal set of written questions propounded by one litigant and required to be answered by an adversary, in order to clarify matters of evidence and help to determine in advance what facts will be presented at any trial in the case. ... In law, a deposition is evidence given under oath and recorded for use in court at a later date. ... Default judgment is a binding judgment in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant has not responded to a summons or has failed to appear before a court. ... Summary judgment is a legal term which means that a court has made a determination (a judgment) without a full trial. ... Voluntary dismissal is when a law suit is terminated by request of the plaintiff (the party originally bringing the suit to court). ... Involuntary dismissal is the termination of a court case despite the plaintiffs objection. ... For other uses of settlement, including legal uses, see Settlement. ... In legal parlance, a trial is an event in which parties to a dispute present information (in the form of evidence) in a formal setting, usually a court, before a judge, jury, or other designated finder of fact, in order to achieve a resolution to their dispute. ... A party is a person or group of persons that compose a single entity which can be identified as one for the purposes of the law. ... A plaintiff, also known as a claimant or complainer, is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an action) before a court. ... A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... For jury meaning makeshift, see jury rig. ... The phrase voir dire derives from Middle French; in modern English it is interpreted to mean speak the truth and generally refers to the process by which prospective jurors are questioned about their backgrounds and potential biases before being invited to sit on a jury. ... In the common law, burden of proof is the obligation to prove allegations which are presented in a legal action. ... A judgment (or judgement; see spelling note below), in a legal context, is synonymous with the formal decision made by a court following a lawsuit. ... Judgment as a matter of law(JMOL) is a motion made by a party, during trial, claiming the opposing party has insufficient evidence to reasonably support its case. ... Renewed judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) is the partner of judgment as a matter of law in American Federal courts. ... Judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or J.N.O.V. for short (English Judgment + Latin Non Obstante Veredicto) is a type of J.M.O.L., or Judgment as a matter of law, that is ordered at the conclusion of a jury trial. ... In law, a motion to set aside judgment is an application to overturn or set aside a courts judgment, verdict or other final ruling in a case. ... In law, the expression trial de novo literally means new trial. It is most often used in certain legal systems that provide for one form of trial, then another if a party remains unsatisfied with the decision. ... In law, a Judicial remedy is the means by which a court, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order. ... Look up Injunction in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... In law, damages refers to the money paid or awarded to a claimant (as it is known in the UK) or plaintiff (in the US) following their successful claim in a civil action. ... Attorneys fees or attorneys fees are the costs of legal representation that an attorneys client or a party to a lawsuit incurs. ... The American Rule is a rule regarding assessment of attorneys fees arising out of litigation. ... The English Rule is a rule regarding assessment of attorneys fees arising out of litigation. ... A declaratory judgment is a judgment of a court which declares what rights each party in a dispute should have, but does not order any action or result in any legal damages. ... In law, an appeal is a process for making a formal challenge to an official decision. ... A writ of mandamus or simply mandamus, which means we order in Latin, is the name of one of the prerogative writs and is a court order directing someone, most frequently a government official, to perform a specified act. ... Certiorari (pronunciation: sər-sh(ē-)ə-ˈrer-ē, -ˈrär-ē, -ˈra-rē) is a legal term in Roman, English and American law referring to a type of writ seeking judicial review. ... A trial at the Old Bailey in London as drawn by Thomas Rowlandson and Augustus Pugin for Ackermanns Microcosm of London (1808-11). ... A plaintiff, also known as a claimant or complainer, is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an action) before a court. ... A legal remedy is the means by which a court of law, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order. ... A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... A plaintiff, also known as a claimant or complainer, is the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an action) before a court. ... A judgment or judgement (see spelling note below), in a legal context, is synonymous with the formal decision made by a court following a lawsuit. ... A court order is an official proclamation by a judge (or panel of judges) that defines the legal relationships between the parties before the court and requires or authorizes the carrying out of certain steps by one or more parties to a case. ... In jurisprudence and law, a right is the legal or moral entitlement to do or refrain from doing something or to obtain or refrain from obtaining an action, thing or recognition in civil society. ... In law, damages refers to the money paid or awarded to a claimant (as it is known in the UK) or plaintiff (in the US) following their successful claim in a civil action. ... Look up Injunction in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A declaratory judgment is a judgment of a court which declares what rights each party in a dispute should have, but does not order any action or result in any legal damages. ...


A lawsuit may involve dispute resolution of private law issues between individuals, business entities or non-profit organizations. A lawsuit may also enable the government to be treated as if it were a private party in a civil case, as plaintiff or defendant regarding an injury, or may provide the government with a civil cause of action to enforce certain laws. The conduct of a lawsuit is called litigation. It has been suggested that Adjudication be merged into this article or section. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... As commonly used, individual refers to a person or to any specific object in a collection. ... The term business entity refers generally to any organization engaged in business activities, regardless of legal structure. ... A non-profit organization (abbreviated NPO, or non-profit or not-for-profit) is an organization whose primary objective is to support an issue or matter of private interest or public concern for non-commercial purposes, without concern for monetary profit. ...

Contents

Rules of procedure and complications in lawsuits

Rules of criminal or civil procedure govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the common law adversarial system of dispute resolution. Procedural rules are additionally constrained/informed by separate statutory laws, case law, and constitutional provisions that define the rights of the parties to a lawsuit (see especially due process), though the rules will generally reflect this legal context on their face. The details of procedure will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and often from court to court within the same jurisdiction. The rules are very important for litigants to know, however, because they dictate the timing and progression of the lawsuit — what may be filed and when to get what result. Failure to comply with the procedural rules can result in serious limitations in conducting the trial or even dismissal of the lawsuit. Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the process that courts will follow when hearing cases of a civil nature (a civil action, as opposed to a criminal action). ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ... The adversarial system (or adversary system) of law is the system of law, generally adopted in common law countries, that relies on the skill of each advocate representing his or her partys positions and involves a neutral person, usually the judge, trying to determine the truth of the case. ... In United States law, adopted from English Law, due process (more fully due process of law) is the principle that the government must respect all of a persons legal rights instead of just some or most of those legal rights when the government deprives a person of life, liberty...


Though the majority of lawsuits are settled and never even get to trial[citation needed], they can expand into a very complicated process. This is particularly true in federal systems, where a federal court may be applying state law (e.g., the Erie doctrine in the United States) or vice versa, or one state applying the law of another, and where it additionally may not be clear which level (or location) of court actually has jurisdiction over the claim or personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Domestic courts are also often called upon to apply foreign law, or to act upon foreign defendants, over whom they may not, as a practical matter, even have the ability to enforce a judgment if the defendant's assets are outside their reach. For theological federalism, see Covenant Theology. ... The Erie Doctrine provides that a federal court sitting in diversity jurisdiction over a state law claim must apply state substantive common law in resolving the dispute. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Personal jurisdiction, jurisdiction of (or over) the person, or jurisdiction in personam is the power of a court to require a party (usually the defendant) or a witness to come before the court. ...


Lawsuits become additionally complicated as more parties become involved (see joinder). Within a "single" lawsuit, there can be any number of claims and defenses (all based on numerous laws) between any number of plaintiffs or defendants, who each can bring any number of cross-claims and counterclaims against each other, and even bring additional parties into the suit on either side after it progresses. However, courts typically have some power to separate out claims and parties into separate suits if it is more efficient to do so, such as if there is not a sufficient overlap of factual issues between the various claims. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...


The progress of a lawsuit

The following is a generalized description of how a lawsuit may proceed in a common law jurisdiction:


Pleading

Main article: Pleading

A lawsuit begins in federal courts when a complaint is filed with the district court clerk. This complaint will state that one or more plaintiffs is seeking damages or equitable relief from one or more stated defendants, and will identify the legal and factual bases for doing so. The clerk of court then issues a summons, or serves process, upon the defendants, together with a copy of the complaint. This service notifies the defendants that they are being sued and that they have a specific time limit to file a response. By providing a copy of the complaint, the service also notifies the defendants of the nature of the claims. Once the defendants are served with the summons and complaint, they have a time limit to file an answer identifying their defenses to the plaintiff's claims, including any challenges to the court's jurisdiction, and any counterclaims they wish to assert against the plaintiff. In the law, a pleading is one of the papers filed with a court in a civil action, such as a complaint, a demurrer, or an answer. ... The Court of Chancery, London, early 19th century This article is about the concept of equity in the jurisprudence of common law countries. ... A summons is a legal document issued by a court (a judicial summons) or by an administrative agency of government (an administrative summons) for various purposes. ... Service of process is the procedure employed to give legal notice to a person (defendant etc. ... In the common law, an answer is the first pleading by a defendant, usually filed and served upon the plaintiff within a certain strict time limit after a civil complaint or criminal information or indictment has been served upon the defendant. ...


In many state courts, a lawsuit begins when one or more plaintiffs properly serve a summons and complaint upon the defendant(s). In these states, the plaintiffs need not file the complaint with the district court clerk to commence the lawsuit. As in federal court, the defendant(s) will have a specific time limit during which they may file their answer.


If the defendant chooses to file an answer within the time permitted, he must respond to each of the plaintiffs' allegations by admitting the allegation, denying it, or pleading a lack of sufficient information to admit or deny the allegation. At the time he files an answer, the defendant will also raise all "affirmative" defenses he may have. He may also assert any counterclaims for damages or equitable relief against the plaintiff, and in the case of "compulsory counterclaims," must do so or risk having the counterclaim barred in any subsequent proceeding. The defendant may also file a "third party complaint" in which he seeks to join another party or parties in the action if he believes those parties may be liable for some or all of the plaintiff's damages. Filing an answer "joins the cause" and moves the case into the pre-trial phase.


Instead of filing an answer within the time specified in the summons, the defendant can choose to dispute the validity of the complaint by filing one or more motions to dismiss. The motion must be filed within the time period specified in the summons for an answer. If all such motions are denied by the trial court, and the defendant loses on all appeals from such denials (if that option is available), then the defendant must file an answer.


Usually the pleadings are drafted by a lawyer, but in many courts persons can file papers and represent themselves, which is called appearing pro se. Many courts have a pro se clerk to assist people without lawyers. In the law, a pleading is one of the papers filed with a court in a civil action, such as a complaint, a demurrer, or an answer. ... For the fish called lawyer, see Burbot. ... Pro se is a Latin adjective meaning for self, that is applied to someone who represents himself (or herself) without a lawyer in a court proceeding, whether as a defendant or a plaintiff and whether the matter is civil or criminal. ... A pro se clerk is a clerk of the court, employed by the court and found in the courthouse. ...


Pre-trial

The early stages of the lawsuit may involve discovery, which is the ordered exchange of evidence and statements between the parties based on what they each expect to argue during the actual trial. Discovery is meant to eliminate surprises and clarify what the lawsuit is about, and perhaps to make a party realize they should settle or drop the claim, all before wasting court resources. At this point the parties may also engage in pretrial motion filing in order to exclude or include particular legal or factual issues before trial, by blocking the other party from presenting a particular witness or arguing a particular legal theory. In law, discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party through the law of civil procedure can request documents and other evidence from other parties or can compel the production of evidence by using a subpoena or through other discovery devices, such as requests for... The law of evidence governs the use of testimony (e. ... In law, a deposition is evidence given under oath and recorded for use in court at a later date. ...


At the close of discovery, the parties may pick a jury and then have a trial by jury. Or, the case may proceed as a bench trial heard only by the judge, if the parties waive a jury trial, or if the right to a jury trial is not guaranteed for their particular claim (such as those under equity in the U.S.) or for any lawsuits within their jurisdiction. For jury meaning makeshift, see jury rig. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Jury. ... The Court of Chancery, London, early 19th century This article is about the concept of equity in the jurisprudence of common law countries. ...


Trial and judgment

The lawsuit may then proceed similarly to a criminal trial, with each side presenting witnesses and submitting evidence, at the close of which the judge or jury renders their decision. Generally speaking, the plaintiff has the burden of proof in making his claims, which means that it is up to him to produce enough evidence to persuade the judge or jury that his claim should succeed. The defendant may have the burden of proof on other issues, however, such as affirmative defenses. In the common law, burden of proof is the obligation to prove allegations which are presented in a legal action. ... An affirmative defense is a defense used in litigation between private parties in common law jurisdictions. ...


There are numerous motions that either party can file throughout the lawsuit to terminate it "prematurely" — before submission to the judge or jury for final consideration. These motions attempt to persuade the judge, through legal argument and sometimes accompanying evidence, that because there is no reasonable way that the other party could legally win, there is no sense in continuing with the trial. Motions for summary judgment, for example, can usually be brought before, after, or during the actual presentation of the case. Motions can also be brought after the close of a trial to undo a jury verdict that is contrary to law or against the weight of the evidence, or to convince the judge that he should change his decision or grant a new trial. Summary judgment is a legal term which means that a court has made a determination (a judgment) without a full trial. ...


Also, at any time during this process from the filing of the complaint to the final judgment, the plaintiff may withdraw his complaint and end the whole matter, or the defendant may agree to a settlement, which involves a negotiated award followed also by the plaintiff withdrawing his complaint and the settlement entered into the court record.


Appeal

After a final decision has been made, either party or both may appeal from the judgment if they are unhappy with it (and their jurisdiction grants the ability). Even the prevailing party may appeal, if, for example, they wanted an even larger award than was granted. The appellate court (which may be structured as an intermediate appellate court and a higher supreme court) will then affirm the judgment, refuse to hear it (which effectively affirms), reverse, or vacate and remand, which involves sending the lawsuit back to the lower trial court to address an unresolved issue, or possibly for a whole new trial. Some lawsuits go up and down the appeals ladder repeatedly before finally being resolved. In law, an appeal is a process for making a formal challenge to an official decision. ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Appeal. ... The supreme court functions as a court of last resort whose rulings cannot be challenged, in some countries, provinces and states. ...


Enforcement

When a final judgment is entered, the plaintiff will likely be barred under res judicata from trying to bring the same or similar claim again against that defendant, or from relitigating any of the issues, even under different legal claims or theories. This prevents a new trial of the same case with a different result, or if the plaintiff won, a repeat trial that merely multiplies the judgment against the defendant. Res judicata (Latin for a matter [already] judged) is, in both civil law and common law legal systems, a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal. ...


If the judgment is for the plaintiff, then the defendant must comply under penalty of law with the judgment, which will usually be a monetary award. If the defendant fails to pay, the court has various powers to seize any of the defendant's assets located within its jurisdiction, such as:

If all assets are located elsewhere, the plaintiff must file another suit in the appropriate court to seek enforcement of the other court's previous judgment. This can be a difficult task when crossing from a court in one state or nation to another, though courts tend to grant each other respect when there is not a clear legal rule to the contrary. A defendant who has no assets in any jurisdiction is said to be "judgment-proof."[1] The term is generally a colloquialism to describe an impecunious defendant. In law, lien is the broadest term for any sort of charge or encumbrance against an item of property that secures the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation. ... A garnishment is a means of collecting a monetary judgment against a defendant by ordering a third party (the garnishee) to pay money, otherwise owed to the defendant, directly to the plaintiff. ...


Indigent judgment-proof defendants are no longer imprisoned; debtor's prisons have been outlawed by statute, constitutional amendment, or international human rights treaties in the vast majority of common law jurisdictions.


History of the term "lawsuit"

During the 18th and 19th centuries, it was common for lawyers to speak of bringing an "action" at law and a "suit" in equity. The fusion of common law and equity in the Judicature Acts of 1873 and 1875 led to the collapse of that distinction, so it became possible to speak of a "lawsuit". The Court of Chancery, London, early 19th century This article is about the concept of equity in the jurisprudence of common law countries. ... The Judicature Acts are two Acts of Parliament in the United Kingdom, the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1873 (36 & 37 Vict. ...


In England and Wales the term "claim" is far more common; the person initiating proceedings is called the claimant. The plaintiff, claimant, or complainant is the party initiating a lawsuit, (also known as an action). ...


American terminology is slightly different, in that the term "claim" refers only to a particular count (or cause of action) in a lawsuit. Americans also use "claim" to describe a demand filed with an insurer or administrative agency. If the claim is denied, then the claimant (or policyholder or applicant) files a lawsuit with the courts and becomes a plaintiff.


In medieval times, both "action" and "suit" had the approximate meaning of some kind of legal proceeding, but an action terminated when a judgment was rendered, while a suit also included the execution of the judgment.


Lawsuits in fiction

A classic lawsuit in English literature is Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens' novel, Bleak House. The case proceeds over decades, enriching regiments of attorneys and bleeding the assets being fought over until nothing is left for the beneficiaries. The term English literature refers to literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; Joseph Conrad was Polish, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, Salman Rushdie is Indian, V.S... Jarndyce and Jarndyce is a fictional court case in chancery in the novel Bleak House by Charles Dickens. ... Dickens redirects here. ... Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in 20 monthly parts between March 1852 and September 1853. ...


Popular culture's fascination with litigation is not limited to 19th century novels, as the legal system and its players have formed the basis for multiple television shows (L.A. Law, Law and Order, Boston Legal) and movies (Anatomy of a Murder, The Verdict, Twelve Angry Men, My Cousin Vinny, Runaway Jury) in the United States.


Notes and references

  1. ^ Dionne, Georges (1992). Foundations of Insurance Economics: Readings in Economics and Finance. Springer. ISBN 0792392043. 

See also

Look up lawsuit in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

  Results from FactBites:
 
Lawsuit - definition of Lawsuit in Encyclopedia (1462 words)
A lawsuit is a civil action brought before a court in order to recover a right, obtain damages for an injury, obtain an injunction to prevent an injury, or obtain a declaratory judgment to prevent future legal disputes.
However, it may involve public law issues in those jurisdictions that enable the government to be treated as if it were a private party in a lawsuit (as plaintiff or defendant regarding an injury), or that provide the government with a civil cause of action to enforce certain laws rather than criminal prosecution.
The early stages of the lawsuit may involve discovery, which is the ordered exchange of evidence and statements between the parties based on what they each expect to argue during the actual trial.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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