Steps to a Lawsuit in Arizona
August 30, 2019
Steps to a Lawsuit in Arizona
Counxel Legal Firm does everything we can to get you the best result possible. This document is meant to be a helpful guide if you choose to utilize our Arizona legal services whether you need to sue someone or someone has sued you. This guide cannot cover every aspect of a lawsuit and there may be variations to this structure depending on the individual aspects of your matter; however, it is an accurate outline as to how most lawsuits play out. We look forward to assisting you with your legal needs!
The first step to any legal action is first meeting with an experienced attorney so that he/she can review all of the relevant facts that you have available. This will allow the attorney to analyze the legal arguments that can be made in your case and determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case. While this does have some cost, it can often save you money and it is better in the long run for both the attorney and you to meet and be on the same page moving forward.
Before starting into litigation, it is often the first step to send a demand letter to the opposing party. The demand letter outlines the key facts, legal issues, and damages requested. The purpose in sending a demand letter can be to 1) see if there is the potential to resolve the dispute before litigation, and 2) to gather information from the opposing party regarding their position and potential defenses.
The Agency Filing (For Certain Employment Claims)
If you have an employment-related claim that falls under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Arizona Civil Rights Division, then as a prerequisite to your filing a complaint with the court, you must file an administrative claim with one of these agencies, otherwise known as a “charge.”
It is possible that after you file your “charge” with the administrative agency, then both parties could agree to mediate the dispute and try to come to a resolution. If mediation is not chosen or does not resolve the dispute, then these agencies will investigate the claims asserted and will ultimately give you a right to sue letter, allowing you to sue the opposing party in court.
A plaintiff begins a lawsuit by filing a complaint. In numbered paragraphs, the complaint will explain the jurisdiction (what court has the power to hear the case), venue (where the lawsuit may be filed), claims or counts (for example, breach of contract or negligence), and damages (how much money the plaintiff wants from the defendant) in a case. The complaint will ask for a jury if the plaintiff wants a jury trial. Where the complaint is filed depends on the dollar amount of the claimed damages, the type of claims, and where the parties live or do business.
The First Responsive Pleading
The person sued, the defendant must respond to the complaint within a deadline set by the applicable rules of the court or a default may be requested by the plaintiff. A defendant may respond in an answer that admits or denies each of the plaintiff’s allegations in the complaint. The answer will list defenses and counter-claims or cross-claims against the plaintiff or other defendants. The answer will state whether the defendant wants a jury trial. The case will then continue.
Sometimes a defendant may respond by filing a motion in lieu of an answer, which seeks immediate dismissal of all or part of the complaint. The judge will grant or deny the motion, and the case will either be dismissed or continue and the defendant will answer the complaint. Alternatively, the parties may appeal the judge’s decision on the motion.
The Scheduling Order
The parties will then discuss the calendar for the lawsuit, setting important deadlines for when the parties may exchange information, file motions, engage in formal settlement discussions, and go to trial. The parties will submit this scheduling order to the judge for approval. Depending on the court, the judge may also request that the parties attend a scheduling conference where he/she will ask the parties questions and determine what dates are appropriate for the scheduling order.
Discovery is the time period where the parties request and obtain information from each other. The court rules set specific requirements for how the parties may seek and produce this information. If a plaintiff or defendant fails to respond to another party’s request as required by the rules, that party may file a motion to compel responses and go before the judge. Often, parties will depose witnesses in the case. In a deposition, attorneys ask a witness questions and everything said is typed word-for-word by a court reporter. The parties then use the transcripts of the deposition in the litigation.
Motions are a way for parties to ask the judge for specific relief, including dismissal or judgment of a case. Motions are typically accompanied by a written “brief” (often not brief at all) that explains the legal argument and may attach many exhibits.
If one party files a motion, the other party will usually have the chance to file a written response. The judge may schedule an oral argument on the motion, where the attorneys will have to appear in court and verbally explain their position. The judge will make a decision, either orally at the hearing or in a written order or opinion. Parties may appeal final decisions or orders.
Mediation and Settlement
Arizona state courts require parties to participate in case disputes that are less than $50,000. The parties may also choose to hire a private mediator informally to try to settle the case. When a case is settled, the case is resolved by the parties themselves through negotiations, not by a jury or judge. A settlement agreement is signed by the parties after a settlement, and the parties must then comply with its terms or face further legal action.
After discovery has concluded, if the case does not settle and is not resolved by a motion for summary disposition or judgment, the case will go to trial. Trial requires extensive preparation on the part of attorneys.
In a jury trial, the jury is the fact-finder; in a bench trial, the judge decides the facts. In all trials, the judge will rule on objections and motions to exclude certain evidence or testimony. At trial, attorneys will present arguments, witnesses, and evidence. Once the trial has concluded, the parties may sometimes submit post-trial motions or briefs. Attorneys may appeal the judgment entered after a trial.
In an appeal, a trial court’s decision is revisited by another “higher” court. An appeal may happen at many times in a case. Depending on the type of appeal, the attorney may have to first seek leave (or permission) from the court to see if it will take the appeal.
Sometimes a stay is needed to keep the case from continuing while an issue is upon appeal. Appellate briefs explain why a trial court’s decision should be affirmed or reversed and rely on citations to statutes and prior appellate court decisions as authority for their arguments. Rules in appellate courts are different than those at the trial court level. Often attorneys specializing in appellate litigation handle appeals.
Things to Remember
Litigation usually takes longer than you expect, it requires more patience than you expect, and it is more expensive than you will expect. This should not dissuade you from moving forward with litigation and it does not mean that your case will not settle before trial (which most cases do settle before trial).
Contact Counxel Legal Firm
We look forward to helping you achieve the best results possible for your legal matter. We are also happy to assist your family and friends if they have legal matters that they need an attorney to help them with. If you have any questions or you need legal assistance, you can contact us at email@example.com or 480-536-6122.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-536-6122 to request specific information for your situation.
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