Dallas business litigation lawyer Thomas P. Finley, Jr. assists business clients in a variety of litigation matters. Business clients retain me on Dallas litigation matters such as collection of accounts receivables, breach of contract, business disputes, commercial debt collection, commercial real estate, unfair business practices, and insurance. I also assist business clients who are or might become involved in a lawsuit as a result of a business dispute, including the prevention, settlement, and or attending alternative dispute resolution proceedings such as mediation. Contact me to discuss your business litigation lawsuit. For information on business litigation lawsuits the following are the basic stages of a common litigation matter:
INITIAL CLIENT CONSULTATION
The initial client consultation in my office is the time when the basic facts of the client’s litigation matter as well as all documents relating to the claim should be discussed and reviewed. All the necessary information the client has relating to the litigation should be brought to the meeting. At the initial client office consultation the client will provide all personal contact information and describe the facts and potential witnesses in the litigation. The methods for future communications between attorney and client during the litigation will be discussed as well as the attorney fees agreement. The client will agree to assist the litigation lawyer with direction on where preliminary investigations need to be performed that could weigh on the trial and final outcome of the litigation case. Sometimes at this stage the client and attorney will decide that a demand letter should be drafted prior to filing a lawsuit or that settlement options should be explored prior to filing the Original Petition. Contact Dallas Litigation Attorney Thomas P Finley to discuss your lawsuit.
PLAINTIFF’S PETITION – PREPARATION and FILING THE LAWSUIT - SERVICE OF PROCESS
The plaintiff’s original petition is the document or “pleading” that begins a lawsuit in Texas state courts. In preparation of the petition, plaintiff’s attorney is required to provide certain information, makes a statement of the facts causing the lawsuit, make demands for the relief sought whether it be money or other relief, and adhere to certain other specifications. A civil lawsuit in district or county court in Texas begins upon the filing of the Original Petition with the office of the clerk in the court that has jurisdiction to hear the case. After the petition is filed, the plaintiff, usually through the attorney, will seek to obtain service of the petition on the Defendant or Defendants and exercise diligence in procuring the issuance and service of citation. The plaintiff must have a “bona fide” intention to obtain service of the petition and intend to prosecute the lawsuit when filing the petition.
After a defendant has been served with a petition or lawsuit, the defendant may assert as many matters of law or fact in defense of the claim as may be relevant to the case. However, in some circumstances, a defendant must present responsive pleadings in due or proper order such as a nonresident defendant's special appearance motion to challenge jurisdiction must be filed before any other responsive pleading such as the defendant’s answer or the defendant will be deemed to have entered a general appearance. Additionally, a motion to transfer venue if appropriate must be filed before or at the same time as the defendant’s answer or the objection to any objection to improper or inconvenient venue will be waived. Other pleas may be included in the defendant's answer and heard as directed by the court. The defendant's answer may include a counterclaim against the plaintiff, or a cross-claim against a co-defendant. Generally after the defendant or defendants have filed the answer to the lawsuit, counterclaim(s), and/or cross-claim(s) the next stage is discovery.
All Plaintiffs and Defendants which are a party to the lawsuit may obtain discovery regarding any matter that is relevant to the subject matter of the case and that is not privileged. The discovery process requires that parties initiate and observe appropriate procedures pertaining to the type of information that may be sought, as well as to the methods for requesting and obtaining information. These procedures and methods can be found in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure promulgated the Supreme Court of Texas. The rules and restrictions also control the service of the discovery requests, the signatures appearing on discovery documents, and the filing of the discovery materials. Pursuant to the rules, there are time restrictions governing a party’s response to discovery requests and discovery must be completed in accordance with a “discovery control plan” under one of three prescribed levels.
SETTLEMENT AND OTHER PRETRIAL DISPOSITION
Both Plaintiff and Defendant parties are authorized to seek a pretrial disposition to avoid going to trial. After adequate time for discovery, a party may move, or file a motion, for summary judgment on the ground that there is no evidence to support one or more specified elements of an adverse party's claim or defense. In addition, after the lawsuit is filed and appearances made by all parties, the attorney for either side with consent of the client may pursue settlement negotiations. Another possible form of pretrial disposition is the voluntary dismissal of a claim or an entire action by the party seeking affirmative relief, or the involuntary dismissal or abatement of actions by the trial court or on motion of the party opposing a claim for affirmative relief. Parties may also strive to make certain pretrial arrangements. Many times pretrial conferences are used to resolve issues before trial and to order trial proceedings. A party may also motion the Court before trial for certain kinds of relief, such as the consolidation of related cases or the severance of a case into two or more separate suits. Other steps that may be taken before going to trial can include setting the case for trial with the Court, demanding a jury trial, issuing subpoenas for relevant witnesses, and seeking a continuance of the case.
In the district and county courts in Texas, each party has the right to a trial by jury if the party makes a proper demand for a jury trial and pays the prescribed fee. Jury selection includes the process of creating the jury panel, reviewing the qualifications of persons eligible for jury service, voir dire examination, and making challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. During the actual trial proceedings and before submission of the case to the jury, counsel is free to make a number of motions to the Court. Certain trial motions are directed toward ensuring that the decision of the jury as to controverted facts is based on dependable and relevant evidence which the jurors have considered, using their own judgment, free from outside influence or bias. Another type of trial motion is directed toward removal of the case from the consideration of the jury. If counsel believes that the opponent has presented no evidence to sustain a claim or defense and that there is no material fact question for the jury to decide, counsel may request that the court instruct the jury to return a certain verdict or withdraw the case from the jury and decide it on the basis of the law alone. Counsel may also make a trial motion for permission to amend a pleading. Motions after receipt of the verdict and before judgment is rendered are also available.
After judgment, there are other stages such as rendition, reduction to writing, signing, and entry of the judgment. There are also times in which it is appropriate to file a motion for new trial and appeal. Additionally, once a money judgment is rendered and signed, the winning party, as a judgment creditor, is generally entitled to initiate procedures to enforce the judgment.
The above is a basic overview of the stages of a common litigation matter is for information purposes only and not exhaustive of the subject matter of litigation. Of course not all of the matters mentioned will be applicable in every litigation case. Contact Dallas Litigation Attorney Thomas P. Finley for a consultation on your litigation matter.
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