Hundreds of thousands of lawsuits are filed in the United States every year. The bulk of these are routine collection matters, so it is not surprising that relatively few of these cases end with a trial.
But thousands of hotly-contested business and personal injury lawsuits are filed every year, and only a small percentage of these come to trial. Why is that?
Most of the cases settle. Almost all cases should settle after each party finds out what the other side knows. This “finding out” process is called discovery and often includes depositions of the key witnesses. Over the past 20 years, mediation, which is assisted negotiation, has become a popular way of working towards a mutually acceptable settlement number. Many believe that the increased popularity of mediation has decreased the percentage of cases that end up going to trial.
There are two other ways to end a lawsuit. The first is a motion to dismiss. Called a “demurrer” in Virginia state courts, this motion allows a defendant to assume that all of the facts pled are true, but then argue that, even if they are true, they do not add up to a claim. A motion to dismiss is an effective way to get rid of a case that has an obvious flaw from the beginning. For example, sometimes it is clear from the Complaint that the defendant owed no duty to the plaintiff.
Lawsuits can also try to end a case by filing a motion for summary judgment. This motion must be based on undisputed facts. So if there are no real factual issues, a party may ask the court to rule based on the evidence. This motion is effective when the facts revealed during discovery mean that the claim is just not viable. Motions for summary judgment can raise defenses based on contract provisions, such as mandatory notice provisions. If the evidence shows that the required notice was not given, this may end the case.
Authored by attorney Ned Nicholas, these articles are meant to bring awareness to these topics and are not intended to be used as legal advice.
For more information, contact Mike at 757-446-8626 or Bill Franczek at 757-446-8600.
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