Before the lawsuit starts the facts are carefully investigated, witnesses are interviewed and statements are obtained.
In cases involving experts, the expert would have reviewed the cased and informed us it has merit. A summons and complaint is then prepared, filed with the court and served on the party sued, the defendant. The party who sues is known as the plaintiff. The defendant must serve its answer within 20-30 days depending on the mode of service.
The parties serve each other with discovery demands and examinations before trial is scheduled. Court conferences are also attended by the attorney. Once all pretrial discovery is completed the case goes on the trial calendar.
New York courts have a large volume of cases, and it can take well over a year to be reached for trial after the case is on the trial calendar. There are pretrial conferences where the court attempts to mediate settlement of the case. If that fails, the court gives a trial date and the parties must be prepared to start trial.
The trial begins with jury selection. Each party is given three pre emptory challenges which can be used to excuse a prospective juror without cause. If the prospective juror is employed by a party, or has a close relationship with a party, or cannot be fair for any reason, the court will excuse that juror for cause.
After the jury is selected, the trial begins with opening statements where each side sets forth what it expects the proof to show and the respective claims. Plaintiff presents his/her proof first. After plaintiff’s proof is completed, defendant may submit proof if he/she desires.
After all proof is complete attorneys will make their final argument called a summation. This time the defendant goes first and the plaintiff last. The court will then tell the jury what the law is. The jury will apply this law to the facts as it determines them to be, and decides the case. That decision is known as the verdict.
Either side can appeal a verdict. The grounds for appeal can be error by the court, either in its charge to the jury or ruling on admissibility of evidence. If the jury’s verdict is contrary to the weight of the credible evidence or if the amount of damages is excessively high, or unreasonably low, the court can set the verdict aside.