Basics of Defending a Lawsuit

Step 1 Step 2 Step 3 Step 4 Step 5
Plaintiff files COMPLAINT and SUMMONS Defendant files ANSWER Fact finding occurs through DISCOVERY Motion Practice JUDGMENT or SETTLEMENT is entered.
A TRIAL may occur when settlement is not reached.

1.   After being served a complaint and summons usually by  a process server l, an individual or business entity has filed a lawsuit against you and this process becomes known as litigation.

2.    You will have a specified time frame to file an answer,usually 20 DAYS. An answer is a document that must be filed with the court that responds in writing to the allegations set forth in the complaint. .

It is wise to seek the advice of an attorney before filing an answer. Some defenses such as Failure to State a Claim, and Statute of Limitations should be raised in the answer or they may be deemed waived by the Court. These and other defenses are listed in each state’s Rules of Civil Procedure.

3.    If you fail to answer the plaintiff’s complaint, they seek a default. If the judge grants the motion, a formal Default Judgment will be entered ordering you to pay damages. You will have a specified time period to pay the judgment or dispute it.

4.   If you feel there is no basis for the claim(s) made against you, you may file a Motion to Dismiss. A Motion to Dismiss shall state why the facts and/or law do not support the claims being made. Again, it is wise to seek the advice of an attorney who has the experience to properly draft an effective motion.

5.   If a Motion to Dismiss claim is denied, the Discovery process will continue. Discovery allows for each party to request information including answers to questions and documents. Such requests will come in the form of Admissions (asking you to deny or admit stated facts), Interrogatories (detailed questions concerning the facts of the case) and Production (asking the opposing party to produce relevant documents).

6.   Failing to respond to Discovery in a timely or factual manner can lead to severe legal consequences. However, the opposing counsel will typically file a Motion to Compel. A Motion to Compel asks the judge to enforce the Discovery requests against the opposing party. It is important to answer Discovery in a truthful and timely manner even if you do not agree with the information or allegations the opposing party is making.

7.   If the lawsuit process continues, a party may file a Motion for Summary Judgment. A Motion for Summary Judgment seeks for a judge to enter a judgment when there are no factual issues in dispute and the only dispute remaining, is how the law applies to the facts of the case.

8.  In Florida the parties of a lawsuit are generally  ordered to proceed into mediation where a settlement is hopefully reached between the parties. Typically this occurs after each party meets with a mediator who reviews the facts of the case in an independent manner and makes a recommendation. A settlement reached in mediation is a contract and will be binding on the parties. Courts hear thousands of claims per year, and this is one way to remedy the conflict without having to enter a courtroom.

9.   If mediation is not successful, or the case goes directly to trial, a judge or jury will make a ruling and enter a judgment at the close of all evidence and argument. Trials can often take several days, require expert witness testimony (even in civil trials) and cost several thousands of dollars. It is important that you have a strong claim when bringing a case to the trial process.

10.   After the judge enters a judgment, the losing party will have to pay on the judgment. Many parties fail to pay the judgment. Upon failure to act or pay on the judgment, the winning party may need to enforce the judgment. This process requires that the party file a Petition for Contempt, have the opposing party served by a Sheriff and submit proof of service to the Clerk of Court to obtain a Court hearing. The Court will then use legal means necessary to obtain the judgment including garnishment of wages and other income.


Skip to content