The Litigation Process in 4 Paragraphs.

When a lawyer files suit on behalf of a client, there is a lengthy process involved.  First, the lawyer has to develop an understanding of the law and make sure the complaint filed is not frivolous.  This means that the complaint has to be supported by facts and that the law has to support the claim or that the attorney has to have a reasonable belief that he or she has enough of a case to change existing law.  The complaint can be filed in a state court of federal court and then the credit union has some time to respond, often 28 days in state court and 20 days in federal court.  If you get a complaint, the very first thing you must do is fax the complaint to your insurance company.  Often, the credit union will have insurance coverage for litigation instances.  I always recommend that credit unions purchase additional insurance for litigation, usually known as litigation riders.  Once the credit union retains counsel, that lawyer will file an answer and perhaps an answer and counterclaim asserting some type of claim against the person bringing the lawsuit. 

Once the initial pleadings are filed, the next step is the discovery process.  The discovery process involves both sides obtaining information about the case through interrogatories, request for production of documents and request for admissions and sworn testimony.  If you are involved in a lawsuit where the credit union is sued, you will no doubt have to fill out responses to paper discovery. 

Also, if you were involved in the facts and circumstances of the case, you may be called to testify at a deposition.  The deposition is where the opposing attorney asks the witness questions about the facts and circumstances of the case.  This is taken down by a court reporter.  Depositions can be very unpleasant.  Lawyers often seek to lead the witness into admitting something that the witness does not intend to say or to construe what the witness is saying to help his or her own case. 

After the discovery process is complete, then the parties can file dispositive motions, that is, motions like a motion for summary judgment that would allow the court to rule on the case without having a trial.  If the parties cannot settle and the motions do not resolve the case, the case goes to trial.  It can be a bench trial in front of judge only, or a jury trial.  If you have seen Law and Order, you have and idea of what the trial process is like.  First, both sides make opening statements.  Then the Plaintiff’s side gets to put on its case in chief in the form of calling witnesses.  The witnesses testify as to the evidence of the plaintiff.  The defense is allowed to cross-examine any witness put on by the plaintiff.  Once the plaintiff has presented all of its evidence, then the plaintiff rests and the defendant is allowed to put on evidence to support its case and the plaintiff then can cross-examine its witnesses.  There are closing arguments and then the court or the court and jury rules on the case.

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