at Lipman, Katz and Boston
General litigation or civil litigation is a general description of matters that are not criminal in nature and, as such, involve disputes between individuals and/or businesses. Examples are boundary line disputes, contract disputes such as relating to the purchase of a residence, and non-competition agreements which may be between businesses or a business and employee.
The focus of your attorney at Lipman, Katz and Boston is to resolve the matter with the best reasonable outcome for the client. This includes, if possible, finding resolutions before a lawsuit is filed and finding resolutions in which the costs of the litigation are kept as low as possible. Typically, if the matter cannot be resolved prior to a lawsuit, the next step is to file paperwork with the Court in what is called the Civil Division. The case starts with a Complaint, which alleges in general terms what the dispute is about and that is served on the opposing party, known as the Defendant. The opposing party is required to file an Answer. The Court then sends out a scheduling Order which sets forth, over time, what discovery can be undertaken, what needs to be done as far as alternative dispute resolution, and when the case needs to be ready for hearing. Typically, the scheduling Order requires the case be ready for trial in eight months to a year. Discovery is the process in which one side can ask the other side to respond to written questions, produce documents and appear in-person to answer questions which is called a deposition. The discovery is limited to matters that relate to the lawsuit and there are often disputes as to what those limitations are.
The Alternative Dispute requirement generally means mediation. Mediation is when the parties, their attorneys, and a mediator meet and attempt to resolve the case. The mediator is called a neutral and is usually a retired judge or an attorney who is not otherwise involved in the matter.
At some point depending on the nature of the case, the parties have the right to request a jury trial. If the case is not resolved ultimately, it is resolved by a jury trial or a trial in front of a judge. At the trial, each side has an opportunity to present witnesses and exhibits to convince the judge or the jury that their position is the correct one. The decision, if made by a judge, is made in writing. Often weeks and months can pass between the time the judge hears the case and the written decision is received. With a jury trial, the jury makes the decision immediately after all the evidence is presented. The jury does this through specific questions that have been asked to the jury.
If either party is dissatisfied with the result of the judge or the jury, that side has the right to request an appeal. In the appeal, the party appealing has to show that an error was made during the trial, either in the admission of evidence or the application of the facts to the law. It is difficult to win on appeal and appeals are expensive and time consuming. In an appeal, the party appealing is limited to the evidence that was presented at the trial which is presented to the Appellate Court by way of a transcript which is a written document indicating the testimony and evidence through exhibits which are admitted at trial.
At Lipman Katz and Boston, we are advocates for our clients but also advisors. If there are weaknesses in our client’s position, we are willing to so advise our client. This is all with the goal of reaching an end result that it is in the client’s best interest. In this process, we work in partnership with our clients listening to our clients both in terms of what has happened and what they would like to occur. We recognize that clients generally do not have large resources to spend on legal fees so in advising our clients we factor the cost, time, and money in the decision-making process.