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Many courts separate complex civil litigation from civil litigation because of the nature of complex civil litigation cases. Often, a complex civil litigation case has numerous parties (plaintiffs and/or defendants), or it has extensive documentation because of the type of matter being litigated. Some courts also deem complex civil litigation to be cases involving more than a certain amount of money being claimed.
The complex civil litigation process is the same as the civil litigation process in that the plaintiff(s) file a complaint, the defendant(s) file responsive pleadings, and the discovery process and settlement negotiations between the parties start.
Depending on how many judges in a district, along with how many civil litigation cases are filed during a year's time, a court may assign one or more judges to handle only complex civil litigation cases. If a civil litigation case goes to trial, the trial may take anywhere from a day to more than a week to complete, because of the extensive amount of documents (paper and electronic) provided during the discovery process.
Civil litigation is started when the plaintiff or plaintiffs file a complaint with the court, then has the complaint served on the defendant or defendants. The defendant(s) have a certain number of days to file responsive pleadings. A responsive pleading might be an answer and counterclaim, or it may be a motion to dismiss the complaint for various reasons.
If the complaint is not dismissed, and once the answer and counterclaim have been filed, the case moves into the discovery phase. The plaintiffs and the defendants must provide each other with all matter related to the case, including contracts, bank statements, and other documents relating to the case, including certain correspondence and computer records.
Both sides may also serve interrogatories and requests for admissions to each other. These documents may be delivered to the opposing party either in paper format or scanned format. Often, to save paper, law firms scan the discovery onto a compact disk. The opposing party then has the ability to print the documents or keep them all in electronic format. If the parties cannot come to a settlement at some point during or just after the discovery phase, the case then goes to trial.
Complex civil litigation is a matter that has many plaintiffs and/or defendants or is a case wherein the discovery is extensive. It is often set aside from civil litigation in that the court deals with these cases in a separate division (a separate judicial assignment). Often mergers and acquisitions and other contract issues are litigated as complex civil litigation because of the amount of time the case takes—whether because of the number of participants or the amount of documentation that is discoverable. Not only do the attorneys involved in civil litigation need to understand all the legalities in complex civil litigation matters, but the judge must also have an understanding of complex civil litigation matters.
If a civil litigation case has numerous plaintiffs and/or defendants, the amount of discovery going between them is extensive. Even cases with one or just a few participants might have extensive documentation, depending on the type of case.
If your firm is a small- to medium-sized firm, you may be reluctant to take a large case because of the extra attorneys needed to review the expansive amount of documents that might accompany a complex civil litigation case. Using legal staffing, a small- to medium-sized firm can comfortably take and handle larger complex civil litigation cases.
Legal staffing companies provide experienced attorneys to review electronic documents. Electronic documents include emails between the attorneys in the matter and emails between the attorney(s) and client(s). Correspondence, including emails, between an attorney and a client is, under most circumstances, confidential, and is not discoverable.
There are other documents that may be requested during the discovery process, but are also not discoverable. Attorneys provided by a legal staffing agency are experienced document reviewers and weed out all documents that fall under attorney-client privilege.
A forensic document examiner's experience is tantamount to a successful complex civil litigation case. While examining a document, a forensic document examiner might look for the identification of signatures and handwriting, make a comparison and identification of different typewriters, photocopy machines or check writers used to make copies of documents, look for information or physical evidence on a document that identifies it as a forgery, decipher indented writing, compare documents to see if the same type of writing instrument was used throughout the document, and decipher alterations to a document.
Detection of alterations, substitutions, deletions and additions can make or break a complex civil litigation case, especially if a document has been altered to lay blame elsewhere. Forensic document examination is a skill that is taught and then honed through extensive training. A forensic document examiner might see something that a layperson might miss—and that something could win the case for either side.
Complex civil litigation often entails business litigation involving numerous parties or a large amount of money. This type of case usually has an inordinate amount of discovery, for which focused legal professionals are needed. Discovery experts are trained to catalog and organize extensive documentation generated in a complex civil litigation case.
Complex civil litigation may settle out of court or it may make its way to trial if the parties cannot come to an agreement. Organization of documents is important not only for disclosure, but for settlement negotiations and trial notebooks.
Class actions lawsuits are also considered complex civil litigation. Class action lawsuits often have more than 50 plaintiffs. Each plaintiff is required to provide documentation outlining the damage he or she suffered in order to show that he or she is entitled to part of the settlement or court order.
A focused legal professional organizes and digitizes the plaintiff's documents so that information for each plaintiff, including emails and other correspondence, is easily found.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|