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Civil Lawsuits: One Step at a time

1) Complaint and Summons
The State of Arizona,  requires a civil lawsuit to begin by serving a complaint and a summons, through means of a process server, on the defendant. A complaint is a legal pleading which lists the charges or allegations that another person or company violated the legal rights of someone else. If you have been served with a complaint and summons - you should immediately seek legal counsel.


2) Answer / Motion to Dismiss
Once the complaint and summons have been served, a the defendant has 20 calendar days to file an "answer" to the complaint with the court. The answer is the defendants opportunity to respond to the charges or allegations in the complaint, and provides the opportunity for the defendant to bring to light any theories or concerns that would legally release the defendant from responsibility.

A motion to dismiss can also be filed in place of an answer. A motion to dismiss requests the court to dismiss the complaint because there is something legally wrong with the complaint itself in it or in the manner it was served. If the complaint is dismissed at this point, it is typically dismissed "without prejudice," which means the other party is able to refile the complaint unless statute of limitations has run.


3) Discovery and Deposition
40 days following the defendants answer, both the plaintiff and the defendant must provide a Initial Disclosure Statement to the other side. This is essentially all of the information that both sides have or can get that would be considered useful to the other side. Both parties can request that the other party answer questions, called Formal Interrogatories, Non-Formal Interrogatories, or Requests for Admission. A deposition, which is an interview under oath, is also common.

4) Motion for Summary Judgment
A motion for summary judgment (MSJ) occurs after an answer is filed.  This is typically filed post discovery relay to the judge any issues and ask that the case be disposed of prior to moving forward with a jury. If granted, an MSJ usually ends the case.

5) Arbitration
Arizona law requires that certain cases be heard before a court-appointed arbitrator. Arbitrators are local attorneys that have experience in a specific area of the law. The arbitrator's decision is not binding on the court or the jury, but usually causes a case to settle.

6) Mediation
Mediation takes place before trial. Like arbitration, mediation has an experienced attorney or retired judge working with both sides in order to reach an agreement. Fees for the mediator's time are split between both parties. This is an optional step and both parties must agree to it.

7) Trial
Only if arbitration fails, and a motion for summary judgment is denied, is a trial held. Trials take significant time and money. A jury is selected, evidence presented, and arguments must be made before the jury can make a decision.

8) Judgment
After a motion for summary judgment is granted or a jury gives an award, the winning party asks the judge to sign a proposed form of a judgment. When the judge signs this, the other party legally owes the amount of the judgment. If the owing party does not pay, then the party that received the judgment must pay to have the judgment enforced.

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Take it From Our Clients

Anyone experienced in civil litigation can tell you it is commonly time consuming and expensive. Time is literally money in a civil suit. In our experience, clients involved in civil litigation want a solution reached as quickly, efficiently, and pragmatically as possible. For this reason, it is vital to have legal representation at all times.


At The Rigg Law Firm, we are well versed in civil litigation and offer our unmatched intellect and litigation skillset to resolve your civil conflict. Our highly experienced trial lawyers extend a no-nonsense approach to aiding individuals and businesses alike who have found themselves in a civil lawsuit. Retaining The Rigg Law Firm will put your mind at ease as you can rest assured that we dedicate our time to putting your best interest first.