Litigation 101 for eDiscovery Tech Professionals: Legal Documents and Initiating a Case
November 01, 2012
** This blog series is intended to introduce new eDiscovery professionals to the litigation process and litigation terminology. Click here, here and here to go to the first three posts in the series.**
Just a few days ago I spoke with a Litigation Support Manager at a major law firm about this blog series. He told me that he’s asked everyone in his department to follow it, and he added “I wish I had known the difference between a motion and a brief when I first started out.” It made me realize that many litigation technology professionals don’t understand the legal documents filed in a case. So before we cover initiating a case, let me give you a few simple definitions that should clarify things a bit:
Pleading: Every legal document that’s filed with the court in a lawsuit, including the complaint (which initiates the case), answers, motions and briefs.
Motion: A request made to the court for an order or a ruling. Motions might be oral (for example, in trial) or in written form. In all cases, a motion requests the court to do something. Here are a few examples that you’ve probably heard attorneys speak about:
- Motion to Strike: A request that the judge eliminate evidence submitted by the other side. Often the request is made regarding testimony provided by a witness at trial and the jury is instructed to disregard it.
- Motion in Limine: A request at the start of trial that certain evidence may not be introduced at trial.
- Motion to Dismiss: A motion made by the defendant -- usually after the plaintiff has presented its evidence – that the case be dismissed because the plaintiff has not and cannot prove its case.
Brief: A written legal argument that provides the judge with reasons to rule in favor of the party submitting the brief. It outlines facts and supports an argument or position with legal authority (statutes, regulations and case precedents).
Initiating a Case
A case is started with a pleading – the complaint. It’s filed with the court and served on the defendant(s). A complaint usually includes this information:
- Statement of the facts: the complaint lays out the facts / events / incidents that brought about the lawsuit.
- Cause of action: this is a list of the allegations (also called “counts”) with descriptions of how the law applies to each count.
- Injury: the complaint describes the injury suffered by the plaintiff that resulted from the actions of the defendant.
- Demand for relief: the demand provides detail on what the plaintiff is seeking. That is, what result does the plaintiff want? Types of relief include monetary compensation, a request that a specific action be stopped or started, and punitive damages.
Here’s a sample complaint filed in a US District Court.
Next week, we’ll cover the defendant’s response to a complaint. Please let us know if there are specific topics you’d like to see covered in this blog series.Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.