What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit? Part III: Dispositive Motions and Trial
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
In Part II of What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit?, our Columbus commercial litigation lawyer discussed the discovery stage in a lawsuit. Part III of What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit? discusses dispositive motions and trial. Dispositive motions are a litigant’s last opportunity to avoid trial. Whatever issues are not disposed of here, will proceed to trial if the case is not settled.
When Will Summary Judgment be Granted?
A dispositive motion primarily refers to a motion for summary judgment. A motion for summary judgment is a written motion to the court which asks the judge to render judgment for or a against a party, without proceeding to trial. A court will grant a party’s motion for summary judgment if there is no genuine issue as to any material facts and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Bostic v. Connor, 37 Ohio St. 3d 144, 146, 524 N.E.2d 881 (1988). Sometimes this is better stated as when reasonable minds can come to but one conclusion on the evidence produced. Id.
What Evidence Can be Considered by the Court in Deciding a Motion for Summary Judgment?
Almost any evidence can be presented in a summary judgment motion, so long as it is not otherwise excludable, such as hearsay evidence. This is where it pays to have a competent Columbus business litigation attorney represent you through every stage of your lawsuit. The evidence that was collected through discovery and by other means is often vital to winning or successfully defending against a dispositive motion.
The evidence considered in a summary judgment motion can include deposition transcripts, sworn affidavits, documents, responses to interrogatories and requests for admissions, photographs, expert witness opinions, and almost anything else that can be considered evidence. This is why most business litigation lawyers conduct discovery with dispositive motions in mind, especially depositions.
Dispositive Motions Often Promote Settlement
Ultimately, dispositive motions can conclude some or all of the matters in a lawsuit. Parties very often settle once a court rules on a motion for summary judgment. If a defendant fails to get most of the case thrown out on summary judgment, they often feel compelled to settle at that point, rather than proceed through a costly trial. On the other hand, if a defendant has most of the plaintiff’s claims dismissed on summary judgment, then the plaintiff may have very little incentive to proceed to trial and will settle for much less than initially sought.
What Happens if my Case Proceeds to Trial?
In all likelihood, it won’t. Only a very small percentage of cases actually proceed to trial. However, should you be one of the lucky ones, then you are in store for quite the adventure. From a Columbus commercial litigation attorney’s perspective, above all else trial means preparation. No matter how naturally gifted an attorney may be, it is almost always the more prepared attorney who presents a better case at trial. For the attorney, this means reviewing all of the evidence, the relevant law associated with the legal issues, petitioning the court to admit or exclude certain evidence beforehand, preparing evidence such as documents and other exhibits, preparing witnesses, preparing opening and closing arguments, and preparing to cross-examine all potential witnesses the opposing party may present. Because so much preparation is involved, proceeding to trial can be an extremely expensive proposition. If a lot of money is on the line, it can easily be worth it.
At the actual trial, the first step is jury selection. To summarize this process, potential jurors are questioned (often called a voir dire) and some potential jurors can be excluded. Of course, this step is skipped if the parties have chosen to proceed without a jury – which means a judge will serve as the trier of fact.
Each attorney will give an opening argument prior to calling witnesses. The plaintiff will present witnesses first, with the opposing party cross-examining each witness. Next, the defendant will present witnesses and the plaintiff is given an opportunity to cross examine each. Exhibits are often presented and admitted into evidence during direct examination of the witnesses. Finally, each party will be permitted to give a closing argument. At the close of evidence, the jury will deliberate and render its verdict on the issues, typically using jury instructions agreed upon by the attorneys and the court.
Logically, a jury delivering a verdict should be the end of this long and arduous lawsuit process. However, it often is not. Parties can make several post-trial motions and appeals if warranted. Post-trial motions and appeals will briefly be discussed in the final edition of What Can I Expect in a Lawsuit, as well as a final synopsis of how a lawsuit can end at anytime through settlement.
Our Law Firm Has Represented Numerous Clients Through the Dispositive Motions Process
Our business litigation law firm has represented clients in lawsuits throughout Columbus and many other Ohio courts. Please contact our firm to discuss if representation is right for you.