So you’ve filed your complaint or answer, you’ve completed the discovery process. There’s still much that has to happen before opening statements can be made at trial.
Trials are expensive and time-consuming and most courts have very full dockets. As a consequence, there’s a strong incentive to resolve legal matters short of trial, or to simplify matters so that trials are more efficient. This is frequently done through pre-trial motions. As a general rule, pre-trial motions fall into one of two categories:
- Evidentiary motions – During the discovery process, one of the objectives is to gather as much information about what happened as possible, so that both parties have a very clear picture of the circumstances and can prepare the most compelling arguments. Accordingly, the rules of evidence during discovery are not as strict as they are at trial. A witness at a deposition may give testimony that could be ruled inadmissible at trial, for a variety of reasons. Such testimony or evidence, if heard by the jury, could be unfairly prejudicial to one of the parties. For that reason, the court will typically rule on the admissibility of certain evidence before trial.
- Dispositive motions – If either party believes, once discovery has been completed, that a trial is unnecessary, or that the scope of the trial should be narrowed down, a motion can be filed for summary judgment or to dismiss some of the claims of the original lawsuit. For example, defense attorneys may argue that the plaintiffs have provided insufficient evidence to support their claim, or that there aren’t any material issues of fact that are in dispute. A summary judgment motion asks for immediate judgment in the movant’s favor. A summary judgment motion can apply to individual claims, or to the lawsuit as a whole.
At the conclusion of discovery, the Court will schedule a Non-Binding Arbitration, where a qualified Arbitrator will decide on the merits of your case. Either side can appeal the Arbitration Award by filing a request for a trial de novo with thirty (30) days of the Arbitration.
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