When your Amarillo or Lubbock Business is on the Civil Litigation Defense
The world of civil litigation is far removed from the Wild West even in Amarillo and Lubbock! That said, with the proliferation of law school grads and law firms, the rough and tumble world of the Wild West is not a bad metaphor. So should you fire first or look for a good defensive position? Well it depends on a host of factors. So let’s put the ole gun in the holster and consider some basic advice.
It makes a huge difference in the world of civil litigation and business litigation whether you are initiating the attack or defending. Assuming you are the unfortunate recipient of a lawsuit filed in Amarillo or Lubbock Court, you are officially designated as the defendant in a case. Aren’t you lucky? So what happens next?
The process starts with a constable or process server knocking on your door or walking into your Amarillo or Lubbock office with a lawsuit which is known as a petition in state court or a complaint in federal court. When you are officially handed the documents, you will be considered to be “served” under Texas State or Federal law. The date of service is critical as deadlines apply to when you or your attorney must file a response to the petition. Failure to do so timely results in a default judgment which means that the court finds against you without the opportunity to hear your side of the story. If you or your Amarillo or Lubbock business are served with a petition or complaint, get legal advice immediately and don’t procrastinate. If the court enters a default judgment against you, it is extremely difficult to set it aside and the judge will not be sympathetic to the fact that you are not an attorney. Never count on that as a basis to get a default judgment set aside because the law and the judge expect that you will take the necessary steps to defend yourself.
That said, don’t assume that your business in Amarillo or Lubbock is liable or must pay damages simply because a lawsuit has been filed. Some lawsuits have no viability whatsoever and the risk of paying out substantial damages is close to zero. Other lawsuits present a major threat to your business, not to mention serenity. Very much like a medical practitioner, a litigation attorney with litigation experience in Amarillo, Lubbock, and West Texas will be able to examine the lawsuit and let you know if you are facing a real threat or not. Regardless, the lawyer will advise you that an answer must be filed by your business in Lubbock or Amarillo District Court or County Court so a default is not entered against you.
Keep in mind that the civil laws which apply to business are complex and what may appear to be a great defense to you as a business owner might be quite the reverse. Even if your lawyer advises that the lawsuit filed against you has little chance of success, extricating yourself from litigation in Amarillo or Lubbock or West Texas is not easy or inexpensive. Your lawyer can file a quick answer known as a general denial and then seek to convince the lawyer on the other side to drop the case. Assuming the plaintiff attorney has other ideas (which is the typical case), your lawyer will need to file court papers in an attempt to kick out the case before it becomes expensive. A variety of options are available to your lawyer including filing what is called a Motion to Dismiss which is a formal request to the court to kick out the lawsuit because it has no merit. Other “pretrial” options are available and your Amarillo or Lubbock lawyer will advise you as to next steps.
Even the best attorney cannot guaranty that your defense even if it appears to be ironclad, will result in the lawsuit being dismissed at the beginning of the case. Judges are often reluctant to kick out a case at the very beginning and will allow the case to move forward to be further developed by both parties. If so, the next milestone is known as “discovery” which relates to the fact gathering process by your attorney to gather information to properly defend your case. Your Amarillo or Lubbock attorney have numerous discovery tools including interrogatories, document production requests, and depositions, among others. Interrogatories are written questions sent to the Plaintiff via his attorney and require answers sworn under oath. Subpoenas and document production requests require that your opponent produce documents which are relevant to their claim and your defense including emails, hard copies, and even the actual computers and hard drives, in certain situations. Depositions are examinations conducted under oath and before a court reporter. These can also be videotaped.
Once the discovery process has been completed, expect another round of pretrial court papers or motions to be filed in another attempt to resolve the case without the need for a trial. Typically, your Amarillo or Lubbock lawyer will file a motion for summary judgment which is an argument that there is no need for a trial since your case is so strong you should win by simply having the judge look at the paperwork and evidence gathered in discovery. In the event the Lubbock or Amarillo Court grants your motion for summary judgment, the case is over and congratulations!
If you don’t win at this stage, you and your lawyer must take the case to the bitter end in front of a Amarillo or Lubbock jury or the judge herself which is known as a bench trial. Either way, your lawyer will need to move into high gear and prepare your case for trial. The process is complex and time consuming and involves organizing the evidence to establish your defense under Texas law. Witnesses will also be interviewed and presented at trial as determined by your lawyer.
The final process is, of course, the trial. In a jury trial, your lawyer and plaintiff’s counsel will first interview jurors in a procedure known as voir dire. Once that is completed and the jury selected, the case will be tried. The plaintiff presents the case first to the Lubbock or Amarillo jury. The defense then has its opportunity. The actual presentation of the evidence is complex as governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure in Civil cases in Lubbock or Amarillo court, or if in federal court, under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
All of the above considered, civil disputes lack the fast resolution and ultimate finality of a duel and are vastly more expensive. However, in our post Wild West era in Lubbock or Amarillo District or County Court – blood is never spilled to reach an outcome. However, if you lose and forced to pay the attorney’s fees of the other side, it might feel that way.
Defending a lawsuit brought against your Lubbock or Amarillo business is complex. Find an experienced attorney from the very beginning and hopefully your litigation experience will be short lived!