Plaintiff’s Perspective: Missouri Litigation
Preparation for Lawsuit
We are currently investigating the case and the defendant, and we are preparing your file for litigation. Additionally, we are working on drafting the Complaint. We want to make sure we are fully prepared to move forward with litigation, and we will let you know when the Complaint is filed.
We have sent the Complaint in for filing. Once the court has processed the paperwork, we will receive a summons to be served on the defendant. We will then send the summons to the process server or sheriff to deliver to the defendant. Service be a quick process, or it may take some time if we cannot locate the defendant or the defendant avoids service. In other words, this stage in the process may take a couple weeks or a couple months, but it is rare that a defendant can not be served.
As soon as the defendant is served, the defendant or his/her attorney has 21 or 30 days to file an Answer with the Court; however, there is an automatic extension of 15 days that can be requested. Moreover, we may sometimes allow an additional extension depending on the circumstances. This is very common in litigation, and we recommend trying to work in good faith with opposing counsel from the onset of the case. The answer will admit or deny the allegations made in the petition and will contain any counterclaims being made by the Defendant. Upon the Answer being filed, we will be moving to the discovery stage.
The discovery stage of civil litigation involves fact gathering. Both sides involved in the case are able to formally exchange information about the upcoming trial during discovery. This information includes a list of evidence and witnesses that will be presented during the trial. The discovery stage of a case helps prevent surprises during the trial and allows both sides to prepare. We will need some information from you during this stage, and we will be in touch to obtain this information.
During the discovery process, both sides are permitted to conduct depositions. A deposition is an in-person interview under oath, and the person deposed is going to be asked questions about the facts and allegations set forth in the case. Depositions have two purposes: (1) to find out what the party/witness knows and (2) to preserve that party’s/witness’ testimony. The intent is to allow the parties to learn all of the facts before the trial, so that no one is surprised once that party/witness is on the stand. By the time a trial begins, the parties should know who all of the witnesses will be and what they will say during testimony. Depositions are an opportunity for all sides to learn where the weak spots are in their respective cases, then prepare for ways to avoid or rebut them at trial. We will notify you if the defendant’s attorney wants to depose you, and we will prepare you for your deposition. We will also discuss the depositions we plan to take in this case, and we would like for you to be present for those depositions. The deposition stage generally falls towards the end of the discovery stage. The discovery stage can take 4 to 12 months depending on the complexity of the case.
Stage five is mediation. Mediation is a method of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). Mediation is essentially a negotiation facilitated by a neutral third party. Unlike the litigation process, where a neutral third party (usually a judge) imposes a decision over the matter, the parties and their mediator ordinarily control the mediation process — deciding when and where the mediation takes place, who will be present, and how the mediator will interact with the parties. The mediation process is generally considered more prompt, inexpensive, and procedurally simple than formal litigation. It allows the parties to focus on the underlying circumstances that contributed to the dispute, rather than on narrow legal issues. The mediation process does not focus on truth or fault. Questions of which party is right or wrong are generally less important than the issue of how the problem can be resolved. We are hopeful we will be able to resolve the case during this stage, but if not, we will prepare for trial. Considering there are several people and schedules involved, it takes time to coordinate a mediation date. We will let you know of the time/date/location of mediation when it is set.
Prepare for Trial/Trial/Closing the Case
If we were unable to resolve your case in mediation, we plan to move forward and plan for trial. Preparing for trial takes several hours, and we will let you know of anything we need from you during this time period. We are at the mercy of the Court in terms of a trial date, and we will let you know as soon as we receive a trial date. From there, we will schedule a time to meet and prepare you for trial. This stage can take generally between 2 to 12 months depending on the Court’s docket.