Lawsuits are frequently discussed in the news and people often hear of threats to sue. Generally speaking, a lawsuit is a tool to resolve a legal dispute with one or more persons, companies, or government entities. Lawsuits can be expensive, time consuming, and slow or they can be fast and relatively inexpensive.
Frequently, it’s a good idea to write a demand letter before starting formal litigation. It allows the Parties to frame the factual and legal issues in dispute and to potentially settle the case before it reaches potentially expensive litigation.
Most people believe that in order to start a lawsuit, something needs to be “filed” with the court. In North Dakota and Minnesota state courts, this is not the case. A person can start a lawsuit by preparing a summons and complaint and serving it on another person. A summons provides notice to someone that they have been sued. A complaint is a claim made by one person against another person. It will usually list a factual basis for the claim and will state a legal theory for the claim (e.g. breach of contract or negligence). Serving or service is the process of providing legal paperwork to someone. When starting a lawsuit, the sheriff or a private process server frequently does this by handing the documents to the defendant.
After the summons and complaint are served on the defendant, the defendant will prepare an answer. An answer will either admit or deny liability by admitting or denying each and every paragraph in the complaint. If the defendant does not prepare an answer, then they’re at risk of being in default and having judgment entered against them.
When a defendant is answering, it may want to consider filing a counterclaim, a cross claim (if there is more than one defendant), or preparing a third-party complaint.
The purpose of discovery is to conduct a factual investigation regarding the disputed issues involved in the lawsuit. Each party to the lawsuit has the ability to request a deposition, prepare interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission. Less frequently used methods of discovery include request to inspect land, independent medical examination, and requests for authorizations.
A motion can take place any time and a party can make a motion for many different reasons. Broadly speaking, a motion is a request by a party for the court to take some sort of action. In a typical motion, a persuasive brief needs to be filed with the court and there may be an oral argument.
During all stages of litigation, the parties have the ability to resolve their disputes by settling their claims. The lawyers discuss the facts of the case, the law that applies to the case, and what they view as the likely outcome of the case. The majority of civil cases settle. The settlement terms can include the payment of money, a promise to do some future act, or some promise to discontinue some act, among other things. At Fremstad Law we encourage early settlement discussions.
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