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Chapter 4 : Civil Proceedings 101
The lawsuit starts when the plaintiff files his complaint to the court, and the court serves process on the defendant to appear. The defendant responds to the plaintiff’s complaint by filing an answer and may file a motion to dismiss, claiming that the charges are frivolous, without merit, or outside of the court’s jurisdiction or that the statute of limitations has been exceeded. If the motion is granted, that is the end of the case, but if the motion is denied, the pretrial procedure of discovery begins. The most common form of discovery is by interrogatories, written questions propounded by one party to the opposing party seeking information relative to the issue. Another method of discovery is deposition, the taking of oral testimony from a witness. Some depositions are videotaped. The expert witness may become directly involved in the discovery process by producing questions for the opposition and advising the client-attorney on answering the opposition’s questions prior to trial. At the conclusion of discovery, either party may file a motion for summary judgment, claiming that there are no facts in dispute and therefore no need for a trial. If the motion is denied, the proceedings continue. A pretrial hearing is scheduled after all the pleadings have been filed and the case is at issue. The attorneys from both sides appear before the judge and seek to agree on undisputed facts, called stipulations. Such hearings often result in the settlement of the case without a trial.