What is Complex Litigation?

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  • Written By: Norman DePlume
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Images By: Steve Mays, Junial Enterprises, James Steidl, Tagstock2
  • Last Modified Date: 15 February 2020
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Complex litigation is litigation that involves many parties and a multitude of legal and factual issues arising out of the same action or course of conduct. Each party is often represented by separate counsel and cases are prosecuted in several jurisdictions. Characteristics of complex litigation that differentiate it from normal litigation include the production, review and organization of a large number of documents; the deposition of large numbers of witnesses; and the synthesis of huge amounts of data involving complex calculations. Complex litigation has proliferated, with cases involving a wide range of legal matters, from products liability such as asbestos cases, commercial airliner crashes and hotel fires, to commercial cases such as antitrust and class-action suits.

Lawsuits that fall in the category of complex litigation have placed heavy burdens on the resources of the court system. In response, many courts have developed new rules and court structures designed specifically to improve the administration of such cases. Among the new rules are those that specifically define what cases qualify as complex and what criteria are to be used in the selection of judges for such cases.


Complex litigation cases have also burdened attorneys involved, leaving them without the time necessary to review all the evidence and prepare a sound legal strategy. This had led to the proliferation of a host of litigation support aids designed to support attorneys in their efforts to manage complex litigation cases. It is not uncommon in these cases for a team of experienced research specialists to take on investigative and organizational functions in support of attorneys. Such support activities generally include transcript review and annotation, performance of mathematical calculations, and general clerical tasks related to moving the case forward to trial. Generally, evidence researchers review will have been delivered to them in digital form, enabling them to search the data in multiple ways, including by keyword, duration, and section; in addition to increased data searching flexibility, the production of documents in electronic form decreases the amount of time attorneys need to analyze any relevant content discovered.

Attorneys in complex litigation cases also rely on court reporting agencies to assist them in obtaining documents that require special authorization. By utilizing these court reporting agencies to retrieve documents during complex litigation, attorneys are able to delegate functions that would normally place a burden on the resources of their internal staff. This frees up members of their team to work directly with the attorneys to develop a winning courtroom strategy.


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