Construction Law Newsletter January 2016

What’s Happening Now . . .

       5%

  • Unemployment rate for December 2015.
  • Construction gained 45,000 jobs in December; a third straight month of job gains.
  • 263,000 construction jobs were gained in 2015.

Source: U.S. BLS, News Release: The Employment Situation – December 2015 (Jan. 8, 2016).

 

So You Want to Litigate – What Happens Next?

Going into a lawsuit, it is important to understand the process. Some clients think that once a lawsuit is filed, it is only a matter of time—perhaps days, or weeks—before the claim is resolved.

That happens sometimes. But not always.

Lawsuits generally have three phases: Pleadings; Discovery; and Trial. Each phase is distinct, but the timing of Pleadings and Discovery sometimes overlap.

In the Pleadings phase, the parties file written statements setting forth their narratives of the case. Each side files with the court a signed statement setting forth the facts upon which they claim to be entitled to a remedy (or defense).

In the Discovery phase of the lawsuit, parties develop the evidence to support their case. Parties can send written questions (interrogatories) and may request documents to be produced. Parties can also depose witnesses. While objections can be lodged to the discovery requests, parties should know that, generally, any documents, including emails, letters of correspondence, internal communications, and notes are likely to be discoverable and will be produced in the lawsuit. Communications between client and attorney, however, are confidential and privileged.

Once the parties have gathered sufficient evidence, the case is listed for trial. Leading up to trial, parties will identify the exhibits they intend to use and the witnesses they intend to call. The attorneys will write briefs setting forth summaries of their client’s positions. At trial, the parties use the written discovery responses, deposition transcripts, and documents to argue their case to the judge or jury. Cases usually take at least one year to resolve, and they often take several years

During each phase of the suit, there are natural points for settlement discussions. It is common to raise settlement negotiation after the close of Pleadings, or after an important deposition. Sometimes, an upcoming, expensive aspect of the lawsuit—such as a motion, or trial itself—will cause parties to negotiate a settlement in order to avoid the expense of the upcoming task.

As a general rule of thumb, settlements are most efficient early. The purpose of settlement is to avoid the costs of litigation and to limit the exposure to a potentially bad verdict. If the lawsuit has already been litigated through Pleadings and Discovery, many of the litigation costs have already been incurred; thus, settling the matter at that point cannot avoid the costs. When a lawsuit is pending, it is important to seek legal advice immediately to determine the best legal arguments and proper management of the case.

Newsletter written by Jeffrey C. Bright, Esq. , an attorney licensed in Pennsylvania and Maryland. For more information, contact an attorney at Harmon & Davies, P.C.

Employment          Construction           Business

2306 Columbia Ave. | Lancaster, PA 17603

T: 717.291.2236 | www.h-dlaw.com

 

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