Civil litigation is a term which distinguishes lawyer Court work in the non-criminal stream of actions in law. It encompasses not just the representations made in Court but also the pre-trial procedures including interlocutory hearings, and the post-trial procedures such as costs and enforcement of a judgment. Civil procedure is only one of many components of civil litigation.
Civil litigation is often distinguished from the arbitration of collective agreement disputes and criminal litigation, the letter being a specialty of some lawyers in representing clients only in criminal cases such as criminal hearings, trials or appeals.
Civil litigation does, though, include judicial review, adult guardianship and marital law disputes.
TYPES OF CIVIL LITIGATION
Civil litigation is mediate with broad range of disputes, and litigators generally specialize in one or two specific practice areas. Several common areas include:
- Environmental law
- Landlord/tenant disputes
- Product liability lawsuits
- Personal injury claims
- Intellectual property disputes
- Construction liability lawsuits
- Medical malpractice claims
- Employment and labor disputes
- Real estate lawsuits
- Anti-trust litigation
- Workers’ compensation claims
- Education law disputes
- Divorce lawsuits
Civil litigation can be loosely defined as a legal process in which criminal charges and penalties are not an issue.
THE ROLE OF CIVIL LITIGATION LAWYER
A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is known as a “litigator” or a “trial lawyer.” He represents clients across a broad spectrum of associated proceedings, including pretrial hearings and depositions, as well as mediation before administrative agencies or court personnel, settlement and mediation are processes, which attempt to guide the parties toward completion, without the time and expense of going to court.
The role and responsibilities of a civil litigation attorney can be challenging and diverse. It is an adversarial process with two or more parties pitted against each other. The attorney is his client’s advocate, obligated to fight for him to achieve the best possible outcome on the client’s behalf.
Certain skills and knowledge are essential to litigation practice: –
- Strong written and oral advocacy skills
- Analytical and logical reasoning abilities
- Superior interpersonal skills
- Knowledge of legal research techniques and software
- Client development skills
- Negotiation skills
The Life Cycle of a Typical Civil Litigation Case
Civil litigation can be divided into several stages, including investigation, pleadings, discovery, pretrial proceedings, potential settlement or trial, and even appeal. Discovery is typically the longest and most labour-intensive stage of a case. Unlike the way they’re often portrayed on television, civil attorneys spend comparatively little time in the trial.
Much of their time is devoted to the discovery stage — the exchange of information pertinent to the case through depositions, interrogatories, and subpoenas. The latter are demands for information or documents from third parties. Depositions and interrogatories involve questions posed under penalty of perjury to the parties in a lawsuit. Deposition questions are posed orally under oath. Interrogatories are written questions.
Not every lawsuit passes through each stage — in fact, most don’t. The majority of lawsuits are settled by agreement of the parties and never reach the courtroom. Parties can settle during a trial, even after a jury has begun deliberating or has delivered a verdict. They can settle or “stipulate” to some aspects of the lawsuit, leaving others in the hands of the judge or jury.
When a case does go all the way to trial, the entire process, from filing documents with the court to initiate the case through resolution, can take anywhere from a few months to several years.
Example of civil litigation case in India:
Shah Bano Begum vs Muhammad Ahmed Khan
Amendment: Section 125 of Criminal Procedure Code 1973.
“Shah Bano was a mother of 5 and at the age of 62 she was divorced by her husband Muhammad Ahmed Khan in 1978. She went to court asking maintenance from her husband who had divorced her. She demanded alimony which was against the Islamic system. Even the government ruled in favor of her husband. Keeping her health and old age in mind the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shah Bano maintaining the secularism and welfare of women which amended section 125 of the CriminalProcedure Code. For all Muslim wives, this judgment provided maintenance from their husbands in case of divorce.”
By Shradhanjali Patra
Law Student, IME Law College, Ghaziabad
Legal Intern, Lex Excel – Advocates & Solicitors