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The Anatomy of a Lawsuit

Corporate & Business Law

4 minute read

Welcome to Cutler Legal Basics. Today wer;e gonna talk about the anatomy of a lawsuit. To have a lawsuit you need 2 fundamental things. First you need a legal wrong. That could be BOC, fraud, negligence, conversion, theft of trade secrets, those items that are recognized in law as being a legal wrong. The next critical component is damages. you can have a legal wrong but if you don't have damages you don't have a lawsuit- or you can feel you have damages but you don't have a specific legal wrong, you'll most likely not have a lawsuit .With regards to damages they have to be related to the legal wrong. Say you have conversion- that means the taking of something belonging to someone else. The damages for that would be the value of what was taken. If someone stole a car it would be the value of the car. Or maybe the value they sold it for. Or the usage value- but all related to the value of the car. How you characterize damages are a lawyer’s prerogative but the damages must be connected to the wrong. The first step in a lawsuit is the filing of a complaint. A complaint sets forth who the parties are, what the court is, a factual background, and each of the legal wrongs you are alleging. That complaint is filed with the court, they give you a case number, the summons and the complaint are then served on the defendant and the defendant has usually 20-30 days depending on jurisdiction to answer or file a motion to dismiss. Once the complaint is filed, served, and answered, we move on to the second stage of the lawsuit which is the discovery phase to acquire information. It is the time each party can put pressure on the other to disclose the facts and documents they may have. There are a number of tools at our disposal with which to do that. You can do interrogatories, which are questions, you have to look at the local rules because you have a certain amount of questions you can ask. Next is a document request, you can ask the other side to give you documents and vice versa. The next is admissions, in which you can ask the other side to admit/deny facts. Lastly your depositions, where you can bring the other part into ur lawyer’s office to answer questions under oath. Unfortunately vice versa you can be forced to go to the other side’s lawyer’s office, go before a court reporter who takes everything down and answer questions under oath. Finally you can serve subpoenas on non parties. And you can ask a bank, business, or even individual to produce documents or themselves come in to answer questions. And subpoenas are very effective particularly when you wanna get bank records. Once the judge has all undisputed facts then the judge applies the law to those undisputed facts at which point the judge can leave judgment for the defendant or plaintiff, or no judgment. The judge can say they’re disputed facts, I need to hear them at trial and I need to weigh those and the jury needs to weigh those, and they have to go to trial. At that point the case continues to trial because the judge cannot decide the case at that time. If the judge can decide the case at that time then that either brings the case to a conclusion or a conclusion as to those causes of action the judge can decide upon. We go to trial if it’s not decided at which point you present the case before a jury or a judge who then weighs the facts, looks at the witnesses, says i believe or don’t believe that witness, i believe or don’t believe that document, the more traditional situation that most of us are familiar with. So that’s the anatomy of a lawsuit, thank you for listening and watching.

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