“I think I am being sued. The term civil litigation was mentioned. What does this mean?”
Civil litigation is a broad term. Generally, it reflects a fundamental division between criminal and civil laws and courts in Indiana and throughout the United States. Practically speaking, the division reflects the types of liberties at risk.
In civil litigation cases – such as disputes about money, personal property, real property, contracts and children – may be decided by a trial court. In criminal cases, on the other hand, profound liberty interests are at risk: life (death penalty), liberty (incarceration), and disenfranchisement of the rights of a citizen (to vote, for instance).
The difference between these rights is reflected in the burden of proof that a litigant must meet at trial. In civil cases, this is a preponderance of the evidence or by clear and convincing evidence. This is evidence 50% or more, the amount necessary to tip a figurative scale in favor of a side.
In criminal cases, the State must provide the defendant’s guilt by a much higher evidentiary showing: beyond a reasonable doubt.
Under the umbrella of civil litigation, the one a Reader is most likely to encounter is domestic relations, which comprises more than one-half of the cases pending at any one time.
Virtually, every other type of case, not criminal in nature, may be brought in a civil court, including those under the following bodies of law:
- Contract (services).
- Tort (injury).
- Real property (land).
- Debtor-creditor (money).
- Business (goods/services/labor disputes).
- Uniform Commercial Code (goods).
The way the legal proceeding begins is by the plaintiff/petitioner filing a complaint/petition and serving the defendant/respondent. Thereafter, the defendant usually has 23 days to respond, unless extended.
In the defendant’s response, which is called an “answer,” he or she typically denies the plaintiff’s claim (because the suit typically reflects there is a dispute) and raises any defenses, such as the matter has previously been resolved. At this time, the defendant may bring claims against the plaintiff or third parties.
Following this, the parties to the civil litigation exchange information through a process called “discovery.” When completed, the case is generally about ready for trial. In most civil litigation cases, because of the overwhelming number of civil cases pending in Indiana’s 300 trial courts, which is about 2 million, the trial court will order the parties to mediation to try to resolve this.
Statistically, many cases resolve in mediation because of the risks and expenses of trial. Those that do not settle at this time, then proceed to a trial before the bench (the judge) or jury. In many civil cases, there is no right to trial by jury. After the decision is made in the disputed case, a party may appeal.
The civil litigation lawyers at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. have handled (brought or defended) civil cases ranging from those that are simple and straight forward, with clear liability, to complex multi-state litigation. No matter, we are always attuned to the cost of civil litigation, versus potential outcomes, and when a favorable result may be realized (years later after a trial or appeal in some cases).
With this approach, we carefully monitor the dynamics of the case in order to identify and seize upon any settlement opportunity, consistent with the client’s legal objectives. Ultimately, this allows the time value of money always to be considered, along with strictly non-legal dynamics, such as a business litigating to set precedence for future similar cases; or a divorce client litigating based upon the inherent need of a parent to protect his or her child.
The civil litigation lawyers at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C., hope you, the Reader, find this material educational and useful. If our views, experience, and approach is consistent with your expectation for you legal counsel in civil litigation, perhaps we may be your counsel.
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