Getting involved in a lawsuit will get the heart pumping whether you are the suing party or the defendant. Things will start off in one big rush, but then you’ll notice something. Things certainly seem to have slowed way down. The question for many people is why is this taking so long? In this article, I aim to give you the answer.
Thirty days. It is a magic number in civil litigation for just about every field. Why? It is the interval given to one party to respond to something the other party did. Since parties are constantly in dispute, the 30 day periods of action and reaction can add up very quickly. Let’s look at an example.
I file a lawsuit against you. You have 30 days to respond or contest something in my written complaint. Your attorney advises you that a motion should be filed to contest some of the things I say in the complaint. You agree and the attorney files the necessary papers, often called either a Motion to Strike or a Demurrer. Court rules then allow me a certain amount of time, often 15 to 30 days, to respond to your response before we have the court hearing. The hearing, of course, is set out another couple of weeks.
We finally end up in front of the court 45 days after I filed the original lawsuit. The judge agrees with some of your points and strikes out part of my complaint against you. As is par for the course in most states, the judge gives me 30 days to amend my complaint. I do so. We are now 75 days out from the filing of the complaint, 2.5 months, and we haven’t even begun to get into the lawsuit!
Things will get drawn out even more as we move into the next stage. It is known as discovery. I want to see all your evidence and take the deposition of all your witnesses. You think I am overreaching and object to most of my demands. We end up in front of the court repeatedly. At the same time, your attorney is serving demands on me and I am objecting as well. We end up in court on those as well. Before you know it, a year has passed and we aren’t anywhere near having a trial.
The filing of a lawsuit is just the first step in what is typically a drawn out affair. Every jurisdiction brings cases to trial at different rates. It used to take years for a case to be heard, but things have been sped up a lot. Still, you can expect to “hurry up and wait” in most cases. Welcome to the legal system!