It takes a thorough understanding of the law to navigate the complex world of general litigation, a sector that includes a wide spectrum of legal conflicts, from landlord-tenant disputes to personal injury claims.
At Serrano, Farah Law, LP, we’re dedicated to offering our clients competent representation throughout this difficult path. In this spirit, we share this article on the general litigation process in the state of Florida. We seek to provide people with information that can enable a more confident and prepared approach to their legal pursuits by demystifying the complexity of this area of law.
What is General Litigation?
General litigation, also often referred to as civil litigation, refers to a legal dispute between two or more parties that seek compensation, specific performance, or other remedies beyond criminal sanctions. The range of general litigation is broad and includes a variety of problems that might arise in both our daily lives and the business sector.
Cases including personal injury, real estate disputes, employment problems, contract violations, family law concerns, and landlord-tenant conflicts are just a few examples. The variety of conflicts that fall under this body of law highlights how crucial it is to be adequately prepared and represented in a general litigation scenario.
The Start of Litigation: Filing a Complaint
The wheels of litigation are set into motion with the filing of a complaint or a petition by the plaintiff – the party initiating the lawsuit. This document is fundamental to the litigation process as it lays out the basis for the claim, the alleged damages, and the relief sought from the court.
The complaint serves as a road map for the litigation ahead, detailing the plaintiff’s allegations and the justification for the legal recourse sought. It is filed with the court and then served to the defendant – the party against whom the lawsuit is brought. Once served, the defendant is expected to respond within a certain period, typically 20 days in Florida. This crucial first step sets the tone and direction for the rest of the case.
Answering a Complaint and Pre-trial Motions
The defendant has a specified period to reply after being served with the complaint, often 20 days in Florida. The response can take the form of a request to dismiss, which disputes the legal validity of the complaint, or an answer, in which the defendant responds to each claim. Each allegation may be admitted, or denied, or the defendant may claim they lack sufficient knowledge to do either. Any claims that are not specifically refuted are regarded as admitted.
Pre-trial motions can play a significant role in the course of litigation. These motions, filed by either party, can ask the court to decide on certain issues before the trial begins. For instance, a Motion to Dismiss argues that even if all of the plaintiff’s stated facts are true, they do not amount to a legally valid claim. If successful, such motions can lead to the dismissal of the case, or at least certain claims, without a trial.
The discovery process is a crucial part of the general litigation procedure. It’s an opportunity for each side to gather information to support their case. This is done through depositions, interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, and requests for admissions. Discovery enables both parties to know the evidence and facts, promoting settlement negotiations or preparing the case for trial.
In Florida, the discovery process follows specific rules defined by the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure. A party can obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter of the pending action. The discovery process can be lengthy and complicated, requiring skillful navigation to ensure no stone is left unturned.
Often, the goal of general litigation isn’t to take the case to trial but to achieve a satisfactory settlement for the client. Settlement negotiations can occur at any stage of the litigation process, even before a lawsuit is filed.
During these negotiations, both parties, usually through their attorneys, try to reach an agreement to resolve the dispute without going to trial. Settlements can include monetary compensation, agreements to perform or cease certain actions, or other terms acceptable to both parties. The ability to negotiate a favorable settlement requires a comprehensive understanding of the facts of the case, the applicable law, and skilled negotiation tactics.
At Serrano, Farah Law, LP, we’re experienced in the art of negotiation, striving to achieve optimal outcomes for our clients during this critical phase of litigation.
Trial and Judgment
If settlement negotiations do not resolve the dispute, the case will proceed to trial. Trials can be before a judge (bench trial) or a jury, depending on the nature of the case and the parties’ preferences. Trials involve the presentation of evidence, examination, and cross-examination of witnesses, and arguments by the attorneys.
Once all evidence has been presented and arguments made, the judge or jury will render a verdict. If the plaintiff has proven their case by a “preponderance of the evidence” (meaning it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable), the court will issue a judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The judgment will detail the compensation or remedy awarded to the plaintiff.
After the trial court renders a judgment, the parties have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. In Florida, this is usually the District Court of Appeal. An appeal is not a new trial, but a review of the trial court’s decision to ensure the law was correctly applied.
The appeals process can be complex, often involving intricate legal arguments, and requires the assistance of an experienced Florida general litigation attorney.
The process of general litigation in Florida can be complicated and frequently challenging to navigate. Having knowledgeable legal counsel can significantly impact your case. Contact the general litigation attorneys at Serrano, Farah Law, LP if you are involved in a dispute that could result in litigation. With our knowledge and dedication, we’re prepared to guide you through the legal process.