Although the term “litigation” may refer to any legal action, it is usually used in the context of filing a lawsuit. A “trial attorney” is synonymous with being a “litigator,” and these terms refer to a lawyer who goes through the litigation process to trial.
CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRING LITIGATION
THE LITIGATION PROCESS
Litigation is the default process to resolve disputes between parties. If there is no other process required, then a party will file a lawsuit to start the litigation process. The lawsuit allows the court to decide the outcome of the dispute.
Some matters may need to be litigated in a specific court. Parties have a choice of courts in other circumstances.
Once a lawsuit is filed, parties start the process of exchanging claims and information. This process continues until a court either determines that there is no factual dispute that precludes it from ruling or a trial is scheduled at which the judge and/or jury rule about the issues between the parties.
Most lawsuits are filed in state district courts. In a Utah state district court, the litigation process takes on average about 18 months, but the length of litigation can vary greatly and sometimes last several years.
For civil cases under $10,000.00, a plaintiff has the option to proceed in small claims court rather than the district court. The small claims process is simpler and generally lasts less than a year.
Limited matters may be heard in federal courts. For example, matters that involve residents of different states or concern federal laws and involve a dispute of more than $75,000 may be appropriately filed in federal court. Some matters, such a bankruptcy case, must be heard in a federal court.
A contract with a forum selection clause may limit a party’s ability to choose a particular court. Contracts should be reviewed before a case is filed to make sure the proper court is chosen.