When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. Under the various rules of Civil Procedure that govern actions in state and federal courts, litigation involves a series of steps that may lead to a court trial and ultimately a resolution of the matter.
Before a lawsuit is filed, the person contemplating the lawsuit (called the plaintiff) typically demands that the person who caused the alleged injury (called the defendant) perform certain actions that will resolve the conflict. If the demand is refused or ignored, the plaintiff may start the lawsuit by serving copies of a summons and complaint on the defendant and filing the complaint with a civil trial court. The complaint must state the alleged injuries and attribute them to the defendant, and request money damages or equitable relief.
Litigation begins the moment someone decides to formally enforce or defend his or her legal rights. In most cases, this happens the moment a party hires an attorney to represent their interests. Most attorneys engage in a variety of “pre-suit” litigation activities. These can include many things, from writing a letter on a client’s behalf called a demand letter, to demand that a party compensate a victim for economic or physical injury, to filing a Notice of Eviction with a local court. Pre-suit litigation is subject matter specific and varies depending on the circumstances surrounding a particular case. However, there are several steps in litigation that occur in nearly every case.