Civil litigation lawsuits or civil lawsuits can be filed for numerous reasons and between various parties, such as individuals and/or businesses. There are certain basic steps in conducting a lawsuit, which are briefly outlined below.
Pleadings encompass the initial documents filed by both parties. The complainant files a statement of claim, in which they outline how the defendant has caused them harm. The complainant becomes the plaintiff. Then the defendant has to file a statement of defence, which is essentially an answer to the plaintiff’s side of the story. The plaintiff may file a reply to the defence. At times, the defendant may feel as if the plaintiff also caused them harm and may file a counterclaim. If there is more than one defendant, the defendants may file a crossclaim against each other. In a complex litigation lawsuit, this may get complicated since there may be multiple plaintiffs and multiple defendants.
This second step involves the plaintiff and defendant gathering all documents and evidence against each other, which are obtained between themselves or from third parties. The documents are then exchanged between the parties.
Then an oral discovery is conducted. This means that the plaintiff is questioned by the defence and the defence is questioned by the plaintiff. The oral discovery is recorded and a transcript is formed, which can then be used at trial.
During almost any stage of the process, both sides may also use motions, whereby they can ask the court to rule in light of certain facts of the case or the law itself. For example, the defendant might use a motion for summary judgment, wherein the entirety of the plaintiff’s case might be dismissed before it even goes to trial. There are a wide variety of motions that may be brought in a civil lawsuit for various reasons.
In some jurisdictions, such as Toronto, a mediation is required. During a mediation, the parties set out their case in front of a mediator chosen by the parties. Then, with the help of a mediator, the parties attempt to settle the case. If the case is not settled, then the parties go to a pre-trial and a trial.
The Pre-trial and the Trial
Before the trial, you need to organize all the evidence you intend to rely on at trial and various documents need to be submitted to the court. Before beginning, it is important to note that these trials may or may not involve a jury. After the lawyers of both sides have given their opening statement, the parties can then present facts, pieces of evidence, and witnesses to prove their claim, which can be cross-examined or questioned by the other side. Finally, after all the evidence and witnesses have been presented, the two disputing parties give their closing statements. Based on what has been presented, the judge or jury reaches a judgement.
If either the plaintiff or the defendant is unhappy with the court’s or jury’s judgement, then they may appeal to a higher court of law. The appellate court goes through the briefs of the two parties, along with the evidence presented in the trial court. If everything is in order, then the higher court affirms the judgement. However, if an error was found, either legal or factual, then the appellate court may reverse the judgement or order the trial court to set up a new hearing.
Civil lawsuits are often very complex matters and the above steps are merely a basic outline of any lawsuit. Some lawsuits are more complicated than others and may involve expert reports, offers to settle, and so on. Furthermore, every step is guided by strict timelines imposed by the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure. Thus it is always better to hire an experienced civil litigation lawyer to guide you through the process.
For other details regarding lawsuits, motions, or appeals, contact Melekhovets Law, the experts in civil litigation. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, we can also help you in the roles of a family lawyer or contract disputes lawyer.