“Civil litigation” refers to lawsuits requesting money as compensation for some damage incurred. “Commercial litigation” is more specifically referring to civil lawsuits between businesses or over business matters. Commercial and civil litigation are unusual in that no two fact patterns are the same. In contrast to personal injury litigation, the issues in commercial and civil litigation are typically unique in each case. Commercial disputes are unique in the sense that the parties had a business relationship, which for some reason has gone sour. However, they may still have an interest in continuing to work together, which often presents opportunities to settle the dispute in a creative way.
Civil lawsuits are commenced by filing a “Complaint”, to which the Defendant must file an “Answer” or other type of pleading to respond to the Complaint and assert its defenses. Both the preparation of the Complaint and the Answer require careful and diligent analysis of the various claims being presented and the defenses that are available, since those matters may be deemed to have been waived if not presented at the time.
Following the filing of the Complaint and Answer, the parties engage in “discovery,” which is the procedure in the law that allows each side to obtain the information and evidence they need to make their arguments at the trial. Discovery can take the form of written questions (interrogatories and requests for admissions) or oral examinations of witnesses under oath (depositions). This is often the most important phase of the lawsuit because the parties must flesh out the facts and information necessary to support their case.
If one side, or both, feel that their position is strong enough, a Motion for Summary Judgment might be filed at this stage, which is basically an argument that the court should grant judgment in favor of the moving party without going to trial. This is often the stage where serious settlement negotiations begin because the parties now know the strengths and weaknesses of their relative positions.
If either party believes that their position is so strong that there is no question it can prove its arguments, a Motion for Summary Judgment might be filed at this stage. This motion is an argument that the court should grant a judgment in favor of the moving party without conducting a trial.
After discovery is completed, serious settlement negotiations often begin because the parties now know the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments. If the case is not settled or resolved, the case will proceed to trial. Most civil litigation cases can be argued before a jury, but they are sometimes argued only to the judge (called a bench trial).
Following trial, a verdict (in the case of a jury trial) or an order (in the case of a bench trial) will be entered. After the decision, either side may have an opportunity to file additional motions requesting things like reconsideration, of certain evidence, reimbursement for attorney’s fees, and others. In Arizona attorney’s fees may be awarded to the wining party for certain types of lawsuits, like a lawsuit based on a contract.
If something in the case was done incorrectly, either party may consider filing an appeal to the Arizona court of appeals. The court of appeals has the power to change the decision of the lower court if something was done improperly in that case.
Commercial and civil litigation can be, and often is, expensive. Individuals and small businesses should seriously consider settlement options at each stage of the process.
The Butler Law Office can provide you with the expertise and assistance to successfully present, or defend a commercial litigation case. Our knowledge of the Bankruptcy Law gives our firm an advantage in representing our clients since either party may have the option to file bankruptcy, which will stop the litigation and potentially discontinue the liability of that party. However, bankruptcy presents its own set of risks and opportunities because of the complexity of the bankruptcy laws.
Butler Law Office has over thirty three years of experience and can help you make a decision that will be best for you!