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Frequently Asked Questions About Commercial Litigation

Every business dispute, however minor it may seem at the time, has the potential to become a troublesome, and expensive, lawsuit. In today's business environment, your best course of action is to have a tough commercial litigation attorney on your side.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Commercial Litigation

Q: How long will the lawsuit take?

A: It varies. The length of time a lawsuit takes depends on a number of factors, such as the complexity of the case, the number of parties involved, the willingness of the parties to resolve the case and the court's schedule. A relatively simple suit, not involving any complex legal or factual issues, could be over in a few months, while a complicated, multi-party suit could take years to resolve.

Q: Who will hear the case?

A: Most commercial lawsuits will be heard by a jury. If the parties agree, a jury may be waived, and the case heard by the judge. The decision of whether to have the case heard by a jury or a judge is a tactical one and depends on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Q: Is there pressure to settle cases out of court?

A: Courts encourage settlement but cannot require parties to reach an agreement. It is usually in each party's best interest to settle a case without going through a trial, however. Trials can be costly and consume time and resources that could better be spent on other things. Even so, many parties find that they simply are unable to reach an agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, the parties have the right to proceed to trial.

Q: Can my case be heard in federal court?

A: Some litigants prefer to have their cases heard in federal court if possible. This is especially true if there is a concern about "home-town bias" if a case is brought in state court. Federal courts have the authority, or jurisdiction, to hear certain categories of cases. If your case involves a federal law or a federal program, or if the United States government is a party to the action, it may be heard in federal court. Federal courts also may hear cases between citizens of two or more states if the amount involved in the suit is more than $75,000.

Q: Who pays the expenses of commercial litigation?

A: A judge may order the losing party to pay the costs of the lawsuit. These costs may include court filing fees, witness expenses and the costs of preparing exhibits. As a general rule, each party is responsible for paying his or her own attorneys fees, with the following exceptions:

  • Parties may have agreed in a contract to pay the other party's attorneys fees in the event of litigation
  • The lawsuit may involve a statute that provides for payment of attorneys fees
  • Courts may award attorneys fees to one party, if it is found that the other party engaged in bad faith or frivolous litigation, or pursued legal theories that have no merit

Q: If I'm unhappy with the result in my case, can I appeal?

A: An appeal is usually an option, but it may or may not remedy your dissatisfaction. Courts of appeal are limited to deciding questions of law, not fact. For example, a court of appeal will hear your argument that the judge in your case did not give the jury the proper instructions but probably will not hear your argument that the jury should have reached a different decision based on the facts. Courts of appeal are reluctant to overturn a jury's verdict, unless there is absolutely no evidence to support the verdict. The theory is that juries, who hear the evidence and see the witnesses who testify, are better able to judge close questions. If you do appeal and win, the most common remedy is that your case will be sent back for a new trial.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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