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The Mechanics of 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.

At Sanders & Parks, our attorneys have been helping businesses locally in Phoenix, Arizona, and throughout the country since 1973. Our goal is to help you achieve your goals. To do that, we take the time to learn about your business. Our business and commercial law lawyers will help you build a legal strategy that is specifically built around your company.

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The Mechanics of Commercial Litigation

Litigation can be worrisome for any businessperson. The stakes may be high, and the future of your business may be uncertain. Much of the worry is caused by the unfamiliarity of the process. Most people have little or no knowledge of how litigation works, unless they have been through it. An experienced commercial litigation attorney at Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix, AZ, can help you understand the process, and can help you and your business through what can be a difficult time.

How a lawsuit starts

The first legal documents in most lawsuits are the summons and complaint. The summons is a short document that informs a defendant that he or she is being sued, in which court and how much time there is to reply (the time to reply is set by law). The summons also lets a defendant know who is bringing the suit.

The complaint should contain a short statement of the reason the court has jurisdiction over the case and the reasons for the claim showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. The complaint should also contain a demand for judgment for the relief the plaintiff is seeking. The plaintiff may seek alternative forms of relief, including monetary relief, injunctive relief or specific performance.

If the defendant does not reply to the complaint within the time allowed, judgment by default may be entered against him or her. A judgment by default is final, usually grants the plaintiff everything asked for and is entered without any testimony or argument from the defendant. If a defendant does reply, it is by serving an answer on the plaintiff's attorney. The answer should contain the defenses to each claim asserted by the plaintiff and the defendant should admit or deny the allegations upon which the plaintiff relies. If the defendant is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of a statement in the plaintiff's complaint, the defendant should state that, and such a statement will have the effect of a denial.

Instead of filing an answer, a defendant may file a motion in which it raises all its defenses, asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. A motion to dismiss can raise the following defenses: lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, lack of jurisdiction over the person, insufficiency of process, insufficiency of service of process, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and failure to join a party.

If the defendant believes the plaintiff is liable to the defendant, he or she may serve what is known as a counterclaim on the plaintiff. A counterclaim is generally served along with the answer, and it sets forth the defendant's claims against the plaintiff.

Pre-trial procedures and discovery

Most of the work in commercial litigation is done during the pre-trial stage. Discovery, in particular, can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive process. Discovery is the process of learning all possible information about the facts of the case and the opposing party. Each party to a lawsuit is required, upon a proper request, to respond to requests for information from any of the other parties in the lawsuit. Methods of discovery include:

  • Interrogatories, or written questions
  • Depositions, or live testimony, usually recorded by a court reporter
  • Requests for admissions, which ask a party to admit the truth of certain statements
  • Requests for production of documents

Disputes over discovery issues will often be brought into court, and decided by a judge. In addition, the court will hear many other procedural disputes before a trial is scheduled.

Trial and judgment

Trials of commercial disputes are usually before a jury, unless the parties agree that a judge alone may hear the case. The jury or judge hears all of the evidence presented in the case, and decides all of the factual questions involved. The jury also decides how much money, if any, the parties owe one another.

The judgment entered is the legal statement of what is owed, and to whom. A properly entered judgment will give a party the right to pursue remedies such as garnishment, execution or attachment of bank accounts.

Speak to a commercial litigation lawyer

While lawsuits vary in complexity and the exact procedures followed, the description above sets out the basic framework of a typical commercial lawsuit. Even a simple litigation matter is made up of intricate procedures that call for a high level of knowledge and skill. A commercial litigation attorney at Sanders & Parks, P.C. in Phoenix has the knowledge and experience needed to protect your interests.

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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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