A lawsuit is a method to formally resolve a dispute by resorting to a public forum. Civil lawsuits are filed by individuals or businesses to redress alleged harm the defendant allegedly caused the plaintiff. The lawsuits can be based on the defendant's alleged negligence, or on some intentional tort the defendant allegedly committed, or for a breach of contract between the defendant and the plaintiff. A civil lawsuit is a lawsuit in which the opposing party is never incarcerated or found guilty; instead, the civil lawsuit seeks to determine fault and assess the proper damages owed by one party to another. When initiating a civil lawsuit, the litigants must follow the civil procedure rules for their jurisdiction.
Civil procedure rules govern how a lawsuit proceeds in a civil court. If the proper procedures are not followed, a court may limit what information may be part of the lawsuit and even to dismiss the case.
The rules are designed to make the court proceedings run smoothly. The rules are a way for the litigants to rest on somewhat equal footing since each litigant must follow the same rules.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern all civil lawsuits filed in a federal court.
Each of the states has its own set of civil procedure rules.The state rules differ from the federal rules, although many states have modeled their rules to follow the federal rules. The differences generally turn on very specific nuances such as timing and fee provisions.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are laid out in 13 sections to make the ease of finding the controlling rule fast and simple. They are also designed according to importance and relevance with the most widely cited rules coming first and special matters left in the back. For instance, the rules on pleadings and motions, which govern almost every aspect of a civil lawsuit, are found in section three whereas the special proceedings rules concerning narrow issues such as condemning property are found in section 11.
The states' rules are generally set forth in a similar fashion.
Using the Rules for Strategy
Lawyers who are well-versed in the civil procedure rules can use the rules to their advantage. For example, they can use the rules governing the phase known as discovery when information is gathered for the case. An expert in understanding and utilizing the discovery rules can formulate strategies to achieve specific information and can use the courts to enforce their discovery requests if their opponent is not complying. Other forms of strategy occur in making decisions as to what type of motion to file and when; all of which are controlled by the civil procedure rules.
The Rules as a Guide
Civil procedure rules similar to an instruction manual. They set forth "the rules of the game," so to speak.
Civil procedure rules could be seen as a rough outline of a civil lawsuit.The rules govern the proper way to file a complaint and answer the complaint as well as the proper way to plead defenses and to make motions. However, civil procedure rules are a complex section of the civil law. They are completely separate from the law itself, such as the law of negligence, but utilized correctly they can make the difference between winning and losing a lawsuit.
- Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
- Civil Procedure, 6th Edition, Stephen Yeazell, 2004
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