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Civil lawsuits and litigation are a complicated and expensive legal process. Disputes that evolve into the respective parties taking legal action against each other are generally not a pleasant experience for anyone involved.

A lawsuit generally begins with a Plaintiff (business entity or individual “suing” another party) serving the other party or Defendant with a Complaint that contains the alleged legal claims against the Defendant and factual basis for the claims. Pursuant to the Summons, that is also served with the Complaint, the Defendant then has 20 days to answer or respond to the Complaint (or if they are located outside of Washington State, 60 days). Parties to a lawsuit may represent themselves (a/k/a being "Pro Se"), but are well advised to be represented by an attorney.

Thereafter, the Defendant(s) can file a Motion to Dismiss, but generally file their Answer to the Complaint, and if appropriate, Counterclaims against the against the Plaintiff(s), which the Plaintiff(s) must then answer. At this point, the case enters into the pre-trial phase known as Discovery. From the start of litigation and via Discovery, the goal is to expose and/or resolve factual disputes between the parties with the end goal being some form of a judgment regarding legal claims and/or dismissal of the alleged legal claims, either via a pre-trial dispositive motion or at trial (parties generally have the right to a jury trial regarding their claims and/or counterclaims).

During Discovery, the respective parties will generally exchange written Discovery Requests such as interrogatories (written questions to the other party), requests for production (requests for the production of documents and/or information), and requests for admission. Similarly, the respective parties generally take each other’s depositions (testimony), and if appropriate, subpoena third-party witnesses for depositions, documents, and/or information. During a deposition, one of the party’s attorneys deposes the other party before a court reporter, and often introduces exhibits (documents and/or information). The other party’s attorney is present, and makes on the record objections when they deem it appropriate to do so. While there are exceptions, the party being deposed must provide an answer to the question(s) asked.

A variety of complicated issues can arise within the course of Discovery. While it violates applicable court rules , parties to litigation sometimes engage in the illegal spoilation (destruction) of relevant documents and information (evidence) in anticipation of and/or after the commencement of litigation, attempt to hide and/or not produce relevant documents and information, and/or fail to adequately answer interrogatories, make timely responses to Discovery Requests, and/or make themselves available to be deposed. Attorneys are ethically obligated to advise and encourage their client(s) to participate in the discovery process in good faith by fully responding to Discovery Requests, and making themselves available. However, sometimes the client(s) fails to do so. There are remedies to deal with these scenarios, and parties can be sanctioned and/or held in contempt of Court for failing to participate in the Discovery process in good faith. Regardless, Discovery is one of the most expensive and tedious aspects of litigation.

During Discovery and the lead up in trial, there is also a pre-trial mechanism known as a Motion for Summary Judgment (“MSJ”) which is a dispositive motion in which a party's claims and/or counterclaims against another party can be granted or dismissed by the Court. The general standard for an “MSJ” is that there is no issue of material fact regarding a claim, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the claim(s) and/or counterclaim(s). If granted, the MSJ will grant and/or dismiss the claim(s) between the parties, meaning that the granted and/or dismissed claims will not be tried by the Court (and/or before a jury). As discussed, Discovery is intended to allow the parties expose the factual disputes between them in preparation for trial.

Litigation is an incredibly complex, expensive and tedious process, which creates motivation for settlement. Parties often engage in settlement negotiations while litigation (and discovery) is pending, and sometimes even hours before trial is set to begin. This can include informal settlement negotiations, mediation and/or arbitration (these options are better known as “Alternative Dispute Resolution” or “ADR”). If successful, ADR can save the parties to the litigation thousands of dollars in costs and legal fees that would otherwise need to be spent on discovery, pre-trial motion practice, trial preparation, and the trial, itself. Under Rule of Professional Conduct 3.2, attorneys are ethically obligated to expedite litigation.

The above discussion of litigation describes only a minutiae of the issues that can arise. Pre-trial,  legal claims may also be dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction, and/or for a party failing to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Given the complex and expensive nature of civil litigation, it is especially important that any party to litigation have an ethical attorney that is versed with the process, and its nuances. Attorney Joel Murray is well versed with complex litigation, offers pragmatic and straightforward legal advice, and is creative in figuring out creative solutions to resolve pending litigation.


Attorney Joel Murray is prepared to help you and/or your business navigate and resolve the litigation process in a knowledgeable, and pragmatic manner. Regardless of whether you are the Plaintiff or Defendant, he understands that you want to focus on operating and growing your business, and living your life, as opposed to dealing with ongoing legal challenges and disputes.

If you are considering taking legal action against another party, have been threatened with a lawsuit by another party, or are a party to a lawsuit, contact JFM Law today to schedule a consultation to discuss your options.


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