Civil litigation involves a legal dispute between two or more parties. Civil court lawsuits in New York involve claims for money damages or to require specific performance or refrain from doing something. Civil lawsuits can be a necessary part of running a business in New York. It is important to have an experienced business and civil litigation attorney on your side to enforce contracts or respond to another party's legal claims.
When a contract requires the other party to make good on their promises, a civil lawsuit can force that party to finish the job or demand money damages for the breach of contract. When a company is owed money, a civil lawsuit may be necessary to compel payment or get a judgment.
On the other side, running a business in New York can expose the company and owners to liability from vendors, customers, employees, or other businesses. When a business owner is served with a civil lawsuit, it is important to respond swiftly to protect company and personal assets.
New York Civil Litigation Process
A civil lawsuit in New York begins with filing a summons and complaint. These documents give the defendant notice of a lawsuit, the basis for the dispute, and what the plaintiff is demanding. The summons and complaint also give the defendant notice that he or she must respond to the complaint (usually within 30 days) or risk default.
After service of the summons and complaint, the defendant responds by filing an answer. The defendant generally has 20 to 30 days to file an answer. When the defendant was personally served within the state of New York, the time to respond is generally 20 days. If your business is served with a lawsuit, talk to your attorney about how much time there is to respond.
The answer provides for a brief response to the allegations of the complaint, generally to admit, deny, or deny based on the defendant's information and belief. An answer is also the chance for the defendant to make counterclaims against the plaintiff and cross-claims against co-defendants.
The next part of the litigation process involves discovery. Discovery is the exchange of information and documents between the parties. In a business lawsuit, discovery may involve a request for documents, business records, emails, phone records, or other types of evidence. Discovery can range from exchanging a couple of boxes of documents to truckloads of records, depending on litigation complexity.
Discovery also includes having the other party answer specific questions in the form of interrogatories and taking depositions. A deposition is a live testimony taken from parties and witnesses. Depositions are taken under oath where the party or witness is questioned by an attorney and the testimony is recorded by a stenographer.
Anytime after the initial pleadings are made, each party may engage in pretrial motion practice. When filing a motion, the party is seeking to have the judge make a ruling on a legal or evidentiary issue. For example, when one party is not responding to a request for documents, they may file a motion to compel discovery.
Pretrial motions may also involve a motion to dismiss the complaint or a motion for summary judgment. A motion to dismiss can be made in lieu of filing an answer, claiming that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. A motion for summary judgment is generally filed after discovery, claiming that there are no facts in dispute and the judge can rule in favor of that party without having to go to trial.
After discovery is completed and the judge has ruled on pretrial motions, the case may finally go to trial. However, most civil lawsuits are settled before trial. A judge may try and get the parties to settle the case through a settlement conference. The parties may also use other forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation or arbitration. Juries can be unpredictable and trials can be expensive. This may make it in both parties' interest to settle a case before it goes to trial.
As a business owner, you need an experienced attorney to negotiate to get you the best settlement possible. If the case does go to trial, you need an experienced litigator who understands New York juries and will fight for your best interests.
New York Contracts and Breach of Contract Claims
One of the most common sources of legal disputes for businesses in New York involves breach of contract claims. Legal remedies for a breach of contract can include a demand for the contract to be fulfilled or to demand compensation for the failure to fulfill the broken end of the contract. A detail-oriented, attentive, and strategic attorney can help resolve any issues you may have in the field of contract law, whether that is bringing a claim to enforce a contract, or defending a claim of breach against you.
In addition to enforcement and litigation for contracts, representation from an attorney is key to the negotiation process when conducting business transactions. An attorney handling your negotiation can ensure that your best interests are kept in mind while the process of negotiation goes on to finalize an agreement that works for you.
Similarly, your New York business attorney can help draft your future contracts and negotiate transactions to reduce the likelihood of having to go through litigation in the future.
New York Civil Litigation Attorney
Many people consider "litigation" as just a trial. Instead, litigation can also encompass all the steps that a case must take before it gets to trial. Going to court does not always mean that claims will be going to trial, but instead, things like motions and evidence may need to be argued in front of a judge to advance the claim before a trial. In most cases, disputes are settled before they ever get to trial.
Litigation can be complex, lengthy, and difficult. An experienced civil litigation attorney will explain your options, identify the best chances of success, and fight for your interests. If you need an attorney for your civil law claim in New York, contact Frederic R. Abramson today for a free initial consultation.