Will Your Business Lawsuit Go To Trial
Many of us are familiar with shows such as ‘Judge Judy’ and ‘Divorce Court’ which have given us a skewed idea of how quickly we are able to bring our case in front of a judge and jury. Especially for those who have never filed a business lawsuit, one may be surprised at how rarely a case goes to trial. We are all entitled to have our day in court, but many clients are surprised that they are not brought in front of a judge to settle their disputes immediately. It is actually a very long process, and oftentimes costly, to finally get to a point where a judge’s ruling is necessary. Most cases will take an earlier exit route in order to avoid this time consuming process through out-of-court settlements, binding or non-binding arbitration, or the Court may give a ruling before the case goes to trial. It’s very common to see parties settle the day before they’re supposed to go to trial.
The most cost and time efficient method is to have the attorneys from either party resolve the dispute in an “out-of-court” settlement. Settling in this way can occur at any point in time before or after the lawsuit has been filed. A resolution is negotiated until both parties agree and then a settlement statement will be drafted in order to memorialize all the details from the dispute. Since this process only requires the two parties (and their respective attorneys) with no third-party involvement, it is quite often the cheapest and quickest way to resolve the issue.
Some cases may need the involvement of a third-party who is neutral toward either side. This neutral party is there to move the process along after hearing either party’s argument. This mediator will try to facilitate, or suggest an agreement but they have no actual authority to make any decisions for the settlement, this is called a non-binding mediation. There are instances where the third-party neutral does have authority to make a binding agreement. If both parties previously signed an agreement that calls for ‘binding arbitration,’ then this third-party mediator could be a private judge who will make a final decision. This is not the same as going to trial. The case may end up going to court but most likely not to trial. This is because the purpose of a trial is to weed out the truth of what happened in the conflict, if there is no dispute and the details are clear, a judge may rule early on a case by eliminating some or all claims during various stages of the lawsuit – a summary judgement motion. This speeds up the process as the parties agree that there’s no dispute of facts in the case so the judge has no finding of fact to make in a trial and can proceed to a ruling earlier.
If a party brings a summary judgement motion, then they have the responsibility of providing evidence that there is not any dispute of fact in the case. This could be affidavits, discovery responses, or declarations which is a lengthy process for all involved.
Just to give a rough timeline, a case that takes a year to conclude is considered speedy. But it is not uncommon for business lawsuits to take several years to finalize. Always consult your attorney regarding what is possible for you if you are facing a lawsuit or are considering filing one. They can guide you into settling out of court or if you need to push your case to trial with the appropriate information and documentation.