An action brought in court to enforce a particular right. The act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself; a judicial contest; any dispute.
When a person begins a civil lawsuit, the person enters into a process called litigation. Under the various rules of Civil Procedure that govern actions in state and federal courts, litigation involves a series of steps that may lead to a court trial and ultimately a resolution of the matter.
Before a lawsuit is filed, the person contemplating the lawsuit (called the plaintiff) typically demands that the person who caused the alleged injury (called the defendant) perform certain actions that will resolve the conflict. If the demand is refused or ignored, the plaintiff may start the lawsuit by serving copies of a summons and complaint on the defendant and filing the complaint with a civil trial court. The complaint must state the alleged injuries and attribute them to the defendant, and request money damages or equitable relief.
If the service of the complaint on the defendant does not result in a settlement of the issues, the plaintiff must begin the discovery process. This involves sending to the defendant written questions (called interrogatories) that seek information involving the dispute at issue. The plaintiff may depose the defendant and others concerning the issues, with the deposition recorded by a court reporter. The plaintiff may also request copies of documents for review. Once litigation commences the defendant is also permitted to use discovery to learn more about the plaintiff’s case. The discovery process may be conducted in a matter of weeks, or it may take years, depending on the complexity of the case and the level of cooperation between the parties.