What is Civil Litigation?

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  • Written By: John Kinsellagh
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 04 February 2020
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Civil litigation is a formal judicial process whereby disputes between two parties are resolved through the court system. Each country has its own set of rules proscribed for the initiation, as well as the conclusion, of the civil litigation process. In the United States, there are formal and exhaustive rules of civil procedure that govern the conduct of litigation, from the initial stages up to and including a trial. Most jurisdictions in the United States have, over time, revised the rules of civil procedure, in whole or in part, to be in accord with the federal rules.

A party who initiates a civil action by filing a complaint in court is designated as a plaintiff. The party against whom the complaint is filed is called the defendant. The complaint is a plain statement that describes the dispute, and it usually contains a request for money damages. It must be served on the defendant by a sheriff or other individual authorized by law. Upon receipt, the defendant must answer the complaint within a specified period, which is usually 21 days after service.


After the defendant files his answer to the complaint, the discovery phase of the civil litigation process begins. The discovery rules are designed to help delineate the material issues in the dispute prior to trial, so that a trial is conducted on the merits of the case — and is free from undue surprises and theatrics. Discovery procedures are conducted under court supervision and allow the parties to exchange relevant documents, as well as take the depositions of other parties and witnesses. Once discovery is concluded, a pre-trial conference is usually scheduled by the court to resolve any outstanding issues. If settlement of the matter appears unlikely, this meeting may be used to schedule a date for trial.

In the United States, an integral aspect of the civil litigation process consists of making requests to the court for specific relief, the granting of which may shape, and have a determinative outcome of, the pending litigation. These motions may range from seeking to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a bona fide claim, to asking the court to compel a recalcitrant party to produce relevant documents in discovery. The legal standards for granting the specific relief requested are enumerated in detail in each of the applicable rules. Due to the fact that numerous motions can be made by either party prior to trial, the civil litigation process often can be protracted, costly, and vexatious.


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Post 4

This site is helpful about civil litigation. I am being sued.

Post 3

Get yourself on the 419 plan, where you can be collecting those benefits, and not have to worry so much.

Post 2

Suntan12 -I remember that case. I think that a lot of civil litigation cases involve product liability cases and wrongful death.

I know that a lot of these cases involve pharmaceutical companies.

This is why there are a lot of disclaimers during commercials of many of these new drugs that come out on the market.

While the drug works well for most, it may have a small percentage of users that have adverse reactions. For example, the acne drug Accutane was recalled due to thousands of pending civil litigation cases.

The company that sells Accutane, Roche has already paid out $33 million dollars because the drug has been linked to irritable bowel syndrome and many psychiatric conditions.

Post 1

I just want to say that civil legal action can follow criminal proceedings. For example, after the OJ Simpson criminal trial, a civil trial was sought against him from the family of one of the victims.

Although Simpson was acquitted in the criminal case, he was found guilty in the civil case. The jury in a criminal case had to decide guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, in a civil case it standard for guilt is the preponderance of proof or more than 50% likely that the act took place.

This lower standard of proof allowed Simpson to receive a $30 million judgment against him.

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