A civil lawsuit resolves cases a plaintiff brings against a defendant over a dispute. Civil laws deal with disputes and conflicts between people and organizations, where the plaintiff has suffered some sort of loss at the hands of the defendant. The private relations between members of the community are resolved under the civil law.
Civil Lawsuit Example
One of the biggest recorded examples of civil law cases was Liebeck v McDonald’s in 1995, when 79 year old Stella Liebeck purchased a hot coffee from Mcdonald’s while in the car with her grandson. She opened the lid to mix the creamery when the coffee spilt on her, leaving deep tissue burns that led to surgeries and severe pains.
She filed a civil lawsuit against McDonald’s under the torts of strict liability and negligence. The case became controversial because she was suing the restaurant over their coffee being too hot. The verdict was given that the plaintiff had suffered severe pain, surgeries, loss of income and pleasure and the defendant’s product- coffee- was too hot to drink. This constituted breach of implied warranty that the product was safe to use.
How to File a Civil Suit?
A civil lawsuit is given full attention in the court, especially if the grounds of the lawsuit are genuine and time-bound. Civil cases are different from criminal ones, but the proceeding and suit process is almost the same. Here are five steps that are most common in a civil suit process.
- Pleading: In this first stage, both parties are required to fill in the paperwork and file the case with the right court, and explain their side of the story. The plaintiff files a complaint, and the defendant files an answer.
- Discovery: This is the litigation stage that is given most time, because the plaintiff and defendant gather evidence and information to strengthen their own cases. This stage starts as soon as the pleading stage ends, and it pretty much continues until trial. Evidence is obtained through interrogations, witness accounts, demand for documents, public accounts etc., and this stage also keeps the parties from hiding information from one another.
- Trial: A civil lawsuit goes to trial if the case hasn’t been resolved yet, and this also marks the end of the discovery process. Both parties submit a brief to the judge where they outline their stances and any evidence they’re wishing to present during trial. The plaintiff speaks their case first and presents evidence, and the defense takes charge later on. When the trial is done, a jury is asked to make the decision. There is also an option for the party to challenge the verdict, or file motion for a new trial.
- Appeal: This is the final stage of a civil lawsuit proceeding where either party can appeal to the court if they’re not satisfied with the decision. The civil lawsuit is then presented to the appellate court where it is reviewed again with all the evidence and if there has been an error, the original verdict can be reversed or order a new trial in the trial court.
How to File a Civil Lawsuit without a Lawyer?
Although it is definitely advisable to hire an attorney to guide you through the process, it is also understandable that not everyone may have access to a reasonable lawyer. Thus, there are ways to file a lawsuit without a lawyer.
The first step is obviously to get the forms and fill them up. The first step in a lawsuit is filing papers with the Court, and these costs can range from under $100 to about $500 depending on which Court you’re in and whether you are requesting a trial to a jury or a Judge. Then you have to serve those papers on the other party, which can cost about $50-$100 if you hire a professional process server.
Go through the petition yourself and make sure you have covered everything asked in it. Your petition should be well researched and well drafted, because the judge will only attend to what has been explicitly asked in the petition.
How much does it cost to file a Civil Lawsuit?
Depositions of lay witnesses can typically range from $200 to $500 per witness, which is mostly made up of court reporter and transcription fees.
If your case is simple and straightforward, and maybe you only need one doctor (‘expert’ witness) to testify at your trial, you might be able to spend as little as $5,000-$10,000 in costs from the beginning of the lawsuit (filing fees) through to the end (expert witness deposition and trial testimony charges).
This amount does not include how much you would also have to pay your attorney in contractual fees. On the other side, however, if your case involves complicated medical treatment or complex legal issues, you’ll need to hire or consult with several expert witnesses to “prove” your case and you could expect to incur $40,000-$80,000 in case costs by the end of trial. Again, this amount would not include whatever fees you have agreed to pay your attorney as compensation for their work.
Small Claims Courts
Cases with low dollar value and the ones that are less sensitive- where either party has suffered loss but not a major one, is settled in a small claims court. Usually disputes that involve money, or overdue debt are solved in a small claims court, and since the process is simplified (it is obvious that the other party has failed to pay the debt on time), the fees are also very low.
The maximum amount that the court can award is $2,500 in Kentucky and $25,000 in Tennessee. Most small claims fall between $3,000 and $15,000.
Small Claims Court Cases Examples
Typically, the most common examples of small claims court cases come from monetary disputes. Small claims courts can hear most types of civil court cases, such as:
- Breach of contract disputes
- Personal injury claims (such as dog bites)
- Collection on debts or loan repayments
- Professional negligence claims (like bad car repairs)
- Claims regarding the return of a renter’s security deposit or personal property
- Issues with contractors or home remodels
- Property damage claims
- Claims involving eviction notices or unlawful eviction
- False arrest claims
- Libel or slander cases
- Counterclaims to a lawsuit
Most small claims courts do not hear:
- Family law cases (divorce, child support issues, guardianships)
- Name changes
- Probate cases
- Personal injury cases with serious injuries or damages
Civil lawsuits solve disputes among people, entities and organizations. For civil lawsuits, cases like torts and contract breach are very common, and their punishment is usually heavy fines. There have been numerous examples and famous cases about civil lawsuits, and sometimes one decision set the bar for new decisions as a benchmark.