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CHAPTER 8: OVERVIEW OF CIVIL CASES - Table of Contents

8.1 - Introduction8.2 Where to find civil law8.3 - Starting a civil case: the complaint8.4 - Serving the complaint8.5 - Responding to the complaint8.6 - Requesting a jury8.7 - Alternate Dispute Resolution8.8 - Initial Procedural Requirements8.9 - Pretrial Discovery8.10 - Summary judgment motions8.11 - Trial8.12 - Damages, Costs and Attorneys Fees

8.1 INTRODUCTION

Unlike criminal cases, which always involve the government seeking to punish an individual defendant, civil litigation usually involves disputes between private parties, in which one side is asking a court to require the other side to do something: pay money as damages, return property, turn over land. In some instances, a party is asking the court to do something quite different: grant a divorce, determine who has parenting rights, approve distribution of assets from a trust.

Usually there are only two parties to a single case, but there can be many more. The parties can all be individuals, as in a divorce or a car-accident case. Some disputes will be between an individual and some type of business entity, as in an employment dispute or an action by a partner against her partnership. Some disputes will be between business entities only, as in some breach-of-contract actions or when one business is accusing another of infringing on its patents. And sometimes, of course, one of the parties is part of the government, as when the county wants to acquire land through condemnation for a new highway.

Although there are very many potential types of civil litigation, the most common types actually encountered are general civil cases, divorce and family cases, and probate cases. This overview will focus first on general civil litigation.

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