Lieber Williams & Labin LLP
633 West 5th St Suite 2800
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 973-0051
Fax: (213) 947-1696
Attorney Stanley P. Lieber has been practice since 1973 and is the managing partner at Lieber Williams & Labin. Stan has extensive experience in contractual litigation and lawsuit defense. He has represented many large industrial corporations, construction companies, developers, and security organizations. Stan has represented clients in thousands of business disputes, has handled over 500 trials, and is a member of the Los Angeles County Bar Civil Litigation Qualified Expert Referral Panel.
To receive a Free Consultation, call (213) 973-0051.
Litigation encompasses all types of legal actions. Usually, however, the term “litigation” only refers to a law-related matter once legal proceedings have commenced, generally done by the filing of pleadings with a court or administrative agency.
Litigation can be civil, administrative, or criminal, with many types of each existing within all three general groups.
Civil litigation is any type of lawsuit or civil action where one side is seeking money or seeking to require the opposing side to perform an act. Civil litigation includes litigation in any of the following areas of law: real estate, landlord and tenant matters, personal injury, bankruptcy, insurance, antitrust, construction defect, trademark, copyright, defamation, libel, slander, workers compensation, and many others.
Business litigation is one type of civil litigation and generally refers to litigation where at least one party is a corporation, partnership, or an individual doing business using a name other than his or her own (known as a “DBA”).
Financial disagreements can lead to various types of business litigation.
Contractual disputes or allegations of a breach of a contract are common in business transactions. A breach of contract occurs when one side to a contract only partially performs a contract, fails to perform a contract in the time required by the agreement, or when one side fails to perform at all.
When one side fails in its obligations, the remedies (solutions) usually fall into one of three categories: specific performance (performing the terms of the contract, such as delivering a promised item), monetary damages (the payment of money to compensate the other side, including restitution and/or future damages); and rescission (the cancellation of a contract)
Real estate and construction disputes arise in most large commercial construction projects and often occur in non-commercial projects. These disputes arise between any and/or all participants in new construction projects or renovations. Contractors, sub-contractors, owners, investors, and real estate agents are all often the defendants in various claims or the initiators of lawsuits.
Collection matters, breach of fiduciary duties, insurance claims, bankruptcy litigation, fraud litigation, and civil appeals are all common types of civil litigation matters.
Not every dispute results in litigation, and not all litigation results in the all cases passing through all of the possible parts or stages. In fact, most cases never reach the trial or appellate stage – many cases settle during the discovery process or prior to the discovery process. Below is a description of the litigation process.
Usually, there is no legal requirement that a person or business participate in the pre-litigation process. Individuals and businesses are generally allowed to skip this first step and immediately file a lawsuit in Superior Court or in the United States District Court.
Even when the pre-litigation part of the civil litigation process is not required, people and businesses often participate in pre-litigation processes strategically and by choice. Even the filing of a lawsuit creates a hostile environment that many people and businesses try to avoid if possible. Lawsuits can also be costly to file and negotiation prior to filing can save costs.
Demand letters are often an effective way to formally request another side pay money that is owed. The tone and level of detail within a demand letter will vary depending on the relationship between the parties and the amount and complexity of the dispute.
Other types of cases do not allow the filing immediately after a dispute and instead require parties to engage in some type of pre-litigation activity. For example, before a person or business can make a claim against any state-operated agency in California, a claim form must be submitted and a period of time must pass prior to eligibility to file a lawsuit.
A complaint is the initial document that begins a lawsuit and is served with along with a summons to appear in California Superior Courts. The complaint will contain allegations by the plaintiff describing what the defendant did to cause the plaintiff some type of harm. The complaint will also request some type of relief (in the form of money or the performance of some act).
The answer is the defendant’s response to the complaint and must be filed within 30 days of personal service (40 days in cases of substituted service). The answer contains the defendant’s responses to the allegations. It usually contains specific and general denials of the allegations and lists any affirmative defenses that would apply.
The defendant can also file a cross-complaint (a claim against the plaintiff) or a cross-claim (a claim against another defendant). The defendant’s other option is to file a demurrer, which is a response alleging the complaint’s claims, even if true, would not be provide a legal basis for the lawsuit to continue. The demurrer asks that the case be dismissed. A demurrer may also request a dismissal because of some procedural defect with the complaint. A complaint may be dismissed with or without prejudice (if a case is dismissed with prejudice, the complaint cannot be re-filed).
In most litigated cases, the discovery process takes the most amount of time. Discovery is a general term for many types of fact-finding and informational gathering methods.
During the discovery process, the parties may ask each other questions in writing under oath, called interrogatories. Parties may also ask each other to admit or deny certain facts in writing under oath, called requests for admissions. Parties may also schedule the deposition of any other party or witness. A deposition is a verbal examination where an attorney asks a witness questions under oath and while the questions and answers are recorded by a stenographer or electronically or both. Deposition witnesses can be any type of witness, including expert witnesses and eyewitnesses.
Either side may bring different kinds of written motions during the course of the case. Motions are requests that the judge make a certain order, such as dismissing a case altogether or ordering certain pieces of evidence inadmissible.
The most common type of motion in most civil litigation and business litigation matters is the motion for summary judgment, also know as a motion for a judgment based on the pleadings. In a motion for summary judgment, one side generally asks a judge to decide the entire case without a trial. However, a summary judgment is only allowed when the side requesting the motion successfully alleges that even if all of the factual (not legal) arguments made by the other party are true and uncontroverted, the case must still be decided in the requesting side’s favor.
Trials are where the factual questions (such as eyewitnesses testimony about what he or she saw) in a case are decided. Factual questions can be decided by a judge or a jury, whereas legal questions can only be decided by a judge. Either side may request a jury trial. If neither side requests a jury trial, the judge will decide all factual issues as well as legal issues. Regardless of whether or not the facts are decided by a jury, the trial process is the same.
In a trial, each side presents an opening statement, an outline of what it believes the evidence will show. Next, the plaintiff is permitted to introduce evidence such as exhibits and witness testimony. The defendant is permitted to cross-examine all of the plaintiff’s witnesses. After the plaintiff rests, the defendant is also permitted to introduce evidence such as exhibits and witness testimony. The plaintiff is permitted to cross-examine all of the defendant’s witnesses.
After the defendant rests, the plaintiff may be permitted to introduce additional evidence to rebut the defendant’s evidence. Each side may have multiple opportunities to introduce additional evidence if the evidence rebuts the evidence the other party most recently introduced. Once the evidence has been introduced, each side receives an opportunity to present its closing arguments. The plaintiff presents its closing argument first, followed by the defendant, and followed an additional time by the plaintiff (the plaintiff goes first and last because the plaintiff is the party with the burden of proving its allegations). After closing arguments, the judge reads the jury a set of instructions. Those instructions provide the law the jury must follow and then directs the jury on the manner in which it is required to apply the law to the facts and ultimately reach a verdict.
The losing side in a trial may appeal. However, appeals only consider whether the judge made the correct legal decisions. Appeals do not consider whether the judge made incorrect decision about the facts and appeals do not consider the jury’s decision about the facts. An appellate court can deny an appeal, grant a new appeal reversing a part or all of a case, or can order a new trial.
Often, the best way to avoid many business-related disputes is to have a properly executed agreement. However, even a perfect contract that leaves no room for interpretation can be breached. When that occurs, a party will rarely be fully compensated without legal help.
While the civil litigation process does not officially begin until a lawsuit is filed, that daunting step can sometimes be avoided if the parties are proactive and work to resolve their dispute. Often, involving attorneys can save money, especially if the attorneys place their Clients’ interests first.
When a lawsuit is filed or is imminent, arbitration and mediation can be viable alternatives to the costly process of litigation and trial. Arbitration is more similar to the court process and involves a decision from an arbitrator. This decision can be binding or non-binding (the parties must agree if arbitration is to be binding). Mediation is simply a negotiation with an impartial referee or mediator who is hired by both parties to bring them closer to a resolution/settlement.
Many businesses and individuals see the litigation process as intimidating because of the rising costs of hiring qualified attorneys by the hour. Some inexperienced attorneys will accept cases for much less money than experienced business litigation attorneys. However, these new lawyers can end up charging as much or more than an experienced civil litigator because they will be forced to charge their clients to learn new concepts.
Despite the high cost of civil and litigation, there are many knowledgeable and highly experienced business litigation attorneys who do everything possible to provide excellent representation at a reasonable price. Their goal is not to charge fees, but instead is to keep costs down and assist clients. This policy can dramatically benefit their clients.
Some civil litigation attorneys also accept fees on a contingency basis, meaning that the attorney only receives a fee if the client obtains money in a settlement. However, these types of fee agreements are generally only offered in personal injury cases (such as a car accident, etc.).
Important Civil Litigation Links:
Lieber Williams & Labin LLP
633 West 5th St Suite 2800
Los Angeles, CA 90071
Phone: (213) 973-0051
Fax: (213) 947-1696
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