Updated: July 5, 2022
Business litigation can be confusing for many facing it, especially for the first time. It can be difficult to know how to proceed the first time you file a business lawsuit to face a claim. It is important to realize that litigation is a tool to resolve disputes between parties and is something most businesses will face at some point during their operation. Whether it is a brand new process or one that you have encountered before, having an experienced business litigation attorney on your side from start to finish can make an enormous difference in the end result.
Each dispute will be its own unique situation, so no two cases will directly mirror one another. Having an attorney with knowledge of the law surrounding your particular issues is critical, as it allows you to fully understand the options available to you and can help you proceed with your case knowing you are taking the best possible path forward.
If your business is facing a claim or considering filing for litigation due to a dispute you will want one of the dedicated attorneys at Monahan Law working on your case. Our expert legal team has the knowledge, skill, and drive to get the best possible result for your particular situation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for your case to see how we can help!
What Does the Business Litigation Timeline Look Like?
There is no definitive path that business litigation will take, as different cases may be approached in different ways and the majority are settled before ever making it to court. Many people with no experience in the legal system are caught off guard by the amount of time and effort that goes into litigation proceedings and the number of steps that must be taken for each case. Our Glendale business law attorneys at Monahan Law can provide you with more details on what to expect from your business litigation, but in general, it will move forward as follows:
Successfully negotiating a settlement is almost always the best thing for commercial lawsuits. Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, taking resources away from growing your business. Remember that while negotiations should be the first step taken in the majority of cases, it doesn't have to be completed first. You will likely proceed through several of the steps listed below before a settlement is finalized, and you can do so at any time prior to the finalized decision from the court.
Filing a Complaint
This is the first formal step in kicking off your case. The filed complaint will spell out the situation that brought on the lawsuit as well as determine the nature of the claim. The defendant will be served with the complaint after it has been filed, and the attorneys of each side will establish lines of communication to begin the proceedings.
After receiving the complaint the defendant has two different options to respond. They may either Answer the complaint, which involves filing a reply to everything listed in the complaint, or they may file a Motion to Dismiss. In the event of a Motion to Dismiss a judge will look over the case presented in the complaint and decide if there is enough to demonstrate a legal breach by the defendant. If the judge determines there is not enough substance to the claim the case will be dismissed, but if they determine there is enough to warrant moving forward then the defendant will be required to file an answer.
Both the plaintiff and the defendant will be ordered to report for a court date following the Answer. This will be used to establish certain deadlines for the case, including time frames for discovery and trial dates. While this schedule is binding, extensions may be granted to either party to allow more time for certain preparations.
Many business litigation cases will never make it to this point. But for any that proceed to discovery, this is when the cases begin to be built in earnest. Discovery is when both parties in the case share information with one another and gives each legal team time to develop and refine litigation strategy for the upcoming case. A thorough discovery phase will allow you to enter the courtroom with a full record of evidence for your case and the most effective strategy for the circumstances surrounding the claim.
There are 5 different types of discovery:
- Requests for Production of Document - This is the most common tool used in discovery and includes gathering information in physical documentation, digital information and data, charts or graphs, video or audio information, and more.
- Deposition - This is questioning by either side. It will take place in the presence of attorneys from both sides as well as a court reporter. Remember that answers given during deposition are done so under oath and so any falsehood can result in you perjuring yourself.
- Written Questioning - This is similar to deposition except the questions will be submitted in writing. Answers given for written questioning are still submitted under oath and the same possible penalties apply.
- Requests for Admission - This is used to get the other party to acknowledge facts presented as part of the case as either true or false. Doing so can help narrow down the scope of the trial, as there may be parts of the case that both sides agree on. Ignoring an admission request will be viewed the same as if you had agreed, so submitting a response before the deadline passes is essential.
- Health Exams - This is not necessary for all cases, but is vital for those that involve the health of one party. Business litigation centered around disability, certain discrimination claims, or injuries sustained at the workplace can hinge on the physical or mental health of one side or the other.
Discovery is not a quick process and usually lasts several months while all the necessary information is collected and shared.
Each party may be permitted to file a Motion for Summary Judgement for the case following the discovery process. These require the court to rule on the case and possibly dismiss it. This will usually only take place if there are no doubts surrounding the facts of the case, if any are present then the case must proceed to trial and the motion will not be granted
Pre-Trial Order and Trial
A pre-trial order will need to be filed by both parties before the trial begins. These will document the evidence that will be introduced during the trial.
The actual trial for business litigation cases may be either a jury trial or a bench trial. In either situation, the cases will be presented before the court before the jury or the judge issues the final ruling.
The conclusion of the trial doesn't necessarily mean that the litigation process has ended. The appeals process can be started by either side by presenting written and oral arguments to an appeals judge. Trial results will usually stand unless there has been some sort of error during the proceedings or if the appeals judge feels that the ruling was made due to a misinterpretation of the law. You can expect several more months of litigation before the appeals process is exhausted.
How Long does Business Litigation Take?
There really is no way to definitively say how long a particular case will take in business litigation. Different types of business litigation have different levels of complication to them, and each case has its own unique set of circumstances that will influence the amount of time it will take to be resolved. While some cases will finish the litigation process with a quick settlement in as short a time as several days, other causes may be far more difficult to conclude and can take years to reach the end of litigation. The reality is that there is no way to say for sure until the case has been closed.
Can You Resolve Business Disputes Outside of Court?
Business disputes can and should be settled outside of the courtroom whenever possible. In fact, about 97% of business disputes will never reach the courtroom. Business litigation makes up the majority of lawsuits in the United States, and it is a slow and expensive process. Sinking time and money into a lawsuit prevents you from allocating those resources to reaching your business objectives.
Working with an experienced business litigation attorney will allow you to save time and money throughout the legal process. They will know the right steps to take and what order to take them in, and will be better suited to settlement negotiations, which can end the proceedings at any time.
Why Have an Attorney For Business Litigation
Commercial litigation attorneys are absolutely critical for any business owner facing litigation. It may seem counter-intuitive to add the costs of an attorney in an effort to save money, but trying to handle your case on your own will end up costing more in the long run as you inevitably miss out on strategies and opportunities you are unaware of. An experienced Arizona business lawyer will be able to bring their knowledge to play to help you save both time and money on your case.
Some of the most important ways a lawyer will help you include:
- Saving Time - The sooner you bring a lawyer on board for your business litigation, the sooner they will be able to help direct your case. This means they will prevent you from heading down the wrong path and having to backtrack, ensure you hit deadlines as they come up, and keep your paperwork in order so you don't have to re-file forms or motions due to mistakes. All of this can add up to substantial savings in time which, in turn, will save you money.
- Preparation - Even settlements that seem open and shut can fall apart for a wide range of reasons. Don't count on your case proceeding without a hitch. Hire an experienced business attorney even when things seem easy, and if the need for litigation arises they will be ready to pivot to a new plan.
- Keep Your Attention Where It's Needed - As a business owner, you should have your attention focused on one place: your business. Instead of having to learn an entirely new skillset on the fly when the stakes are highest, bring in an expert to handle your litigation case. This will free up your time and attention to keep your business moving forward when you might otherwise be bogged down with your legal proceedings.
Legal disputes are common among businesses, and litigation is often used as a tool to settle a variety of legal issues. Whether you are filing a breach of contract claim, facing a lawsuit for wrongful termination, or any number of other possible business litigation matters you will want the services of a skilled and experienced commercial litigator to assist you in getting the best possible result. Monahan Law's business litigation attorneys have the knowledge you need to see your case through successfully and are ready to help. Contact our dedicated legal team today to schedule a consultation to see what we can do for your case.