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What Is Litigation?

Wooden judges gavel and laptop computer on black leather deskThere are many legal terms used in the judicial system that you might not be familiar with.  When becoming part of the judicial system, it helps to understand these terms to make your journey through the process easier to follow.  Most everyone knows some of the basic terms; judge, defendant, complainant, jury and verdict.  And there are many more legal terms that tend to be complicated.  One term that many have heard but might not understand is “litigation”.  What exactly is litigation?

Litigation is described as an action taken before the court to enforce a particular right.  In other words, any action, any complaint.  In a civil lawsuit, the process of filing a complaint is considered litigation.  Litigation is a series of steps taken with the court system to aid in settling a dispute.  To start with, someone who claims they are owed money for example first demands to be compensated by the defendant.  If the demand is ignored or denied, the plaintiff can then proceed with filing a complaint with the civil court.   The plaintiff must state exactly what is owed to them and why.  If these steps do not result in a settlement, the plaintiff must proceed onto the discovery stage.

During the discovery phase a series of questions are asked of the defendant.  All information and witnesses involved in the case are gathered and reviewed by the court.  This stage of litigation can be relatively quick or can take years.  It all depends how complex the case is.  A judge will typically set a date for a settlement conference when all discoveries have been collected.  This meeting will most likely include a back and forth of offers of settlement until such time as an agreement is made.

When a decision is made, it can be appealed if done so in a specified time.  Any decision made by the court after all appeals are exhausted, is final.  Not abiding by a court decision can mean penalties brought forward by the court system.  Once the settlement has been fulfilled by the defendant, the court will file a document stating that the defendant is released from further liability.

This process of litigation may not be the quickest way to solve a legal issue, but it is a fair to make sure all sides are heard.  The litigation process allows both sides to present their side of the story and there is nothing more fair than that.