Tag: Lawsuit

A Short Introduction to Discovery

Discovery is why your civil lawsuit takes so long. It’s the cooperative process of exchanging information between parties in a lawsuit, which can take months or sometimes years. The purpose of discovery is so that a case can be judged fairly on the facts and not due to a “surprise” document that the opposing party withheld until the last minute.

Basically, discovery makes things fair.

Your attorney will request discovery from the opposing party. The opposing party will request discovery from your attorney. Legal rules called the Rules of Civil Procedure govern the timing and delivery of responses. As a client, you might be asked to help answer discovery questions from the other party or to give your attorney some documents to allow the other party to examine.

There are three main types of discovery requests that might require client input: requests for admission, requests for production, and interrogatories.

Requests for Admission. This type of discovery request comes in the form of statements that you must admit or deny. You can also say that you don’t know or don’t have enough information to answer the question. Here are examples:

  1. Admit or deny that you are the managing partner of Local Business.
  2. Admit or deny that Local Business signed a contract with Widget Corporation LLC on May 12, 2008.

Requests for Production. This type of discovery request is primarily for documents. You have probably given your attorney most of the documents related to your case, but the opposing party might ask for more.

  1. Produce all originals of and all copies of all contracts signed by you and Widget Corporation LLC since 2006.
  2. Produce all communication (including letters, emails, texts, and other electronic documents) between you and Widget Corporation LLC concerning contracts since 2006.

Interrogatories. This type of discovery request usually comes in the form of an open-ended request for information, requiring a response beyond a simple yes or no. You might initially be asked to answer these questions and then to approve the final answers your attorney has written.

  1. Describe the safety, storage, and maintenance methods and practices regarding Widgets that you maintained in your regular course of business.
  2. Identify all persons formerly or currently employed by you who have or might have knowledge of Widget safety procedures.

As you can see from these basic examples, discovery can become very involved. Your part is to be as forthright with your attorney as possible and to disclose all relevant information promptly to your attorney. He or she will very likely have additional instructions or requests for you to supplement discovery responses as your lawsuit progresses. If you ever have questions about your lawsuit, ask them!

Remember, folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

As always, our blog posts are not legal advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Statute of Limitations: The Expiration Date on Your Lawsuit

By:  Kelly R. Ledbetter

Let’s say you signed a contract to invest in a business, but the business was never launched and now they refuse to return your money. Can you sue? It all depends on how long it’s been.

The statute of limitations is the time limit you have to file a lawsuit. This time limit varies widely both among states and among reasons for filing (“causes of action” or claims). For instance, in Texas, the statute of limitations for breach of written contracts is four years, whereas the statute of limitations for property damage is only two years. In another state, those numbers will probably be completely different. Some causes of action even have periods as short as a one-year limitation. And of course, there can be a lot of caveats and exceptions—like claims that require notice to the defendant or to a government agency, or a “timeout” on the statute of limitations because the injury was undiscoverable.

Information about statutes of limitations in Texas can be found in Chapter 16 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, available through the Texas Constitution and Statutes home page. Here’s an example of causes of action that have a four-year statute of limitations:

FOUR-YEAR LIMITATIONS PERIOD. (a) A person must bring suit on the following actions not later than four years after the day the cause of action accrues: (1) specific performance of a contract for the conveyance of real property; (2) penalty or damages on the penal clause of a bond to convey real property; (3) debt; (4) fraud; or (5) breach of fiduciary duty. (b) A person must bring suit on the bond of an executor, administrator, or guardian not later than four years after the day of the death, resignation, removal, or discharge of the executor, administrator, or guardian. (c) A person must bring suit against his partner for a settlement of partnership accounts, and must bring an action on an open or stated account, or on a mutual and current account concerning the trade of merchandise between merchants or their agents or factors, not later than four years after the day that the cause of action accrues. For purposes of this subsection, the cause of action accrues on the day that the dealings in which the parties were interested together cease.

Confusing? A bit. This is why consulting an attorney even before you’re certain whether you have a case is important. Someone trained in the law, who is familiar with all the ins and outs of the statutes of limitations in your state, will readily be able to say whether your cause of action may has already expired.

Below are some helpful links with more information about statutes of limitations. These sites provide helpful information, but they have not been verified and they cannot take the place of the legal advice you can receive only from an attorney.

Read a full definition of “statute of limitations”  here.

NOLO, a free legal information website, offers a handy chart of states, causes of action, and statutes of limitations.

Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII) has a narrative example of a statute of limitations.

Wikipedia contains an overview and further links to statutes of limitations and related topics.


Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.

And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

Take my word for it…Or don’t.

It sounds like the beginning of a joke:  One lawyer says to the opposing lawyer, “take my word for it…” But it’s actually the beginning of an unenforceable agreement.  And not because lawyers are untrustworthy!

To be enforceable, any agreement about any matter in a pending lawsuit must (generally) be in (1) in writing, (2) signed, and (3) filed with the court.  An agreement meeting those three requirements is referred to by lawyers as a “Rule 11” or a “Rule 11 Agreement” after Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 11.  The text of the rule reads:

Unless otherwise provided in these rules, no agreement between attorneys or parties touching any suit pending will be enforced unless it be in writing, signed and filed with the papers as part of the record, or unless it be made in open court and entered of record.

Above I wrote that it generally has to be in writing.  But from the text you can see that an agreement made in open court and entered of record is also enforceable as a Rule 11 Agreement.  What’s even more useful is that some courts will enforce agreements made on the record at a deposition, and later filed with the court!  So if you can get the other party to agree to terms of a settlement—or even agree to provide you with additional documents—on the record during a deposition, that may be enforceable as a Rule 11.

And here’s another wrinkle:  let’s say you sign what you believe to be a Rule 11 Agreement, but it’s about a suit that you haven’t filed yet.  That means it’s not really a Rule 11, because the suit isn’t pending.  Remember, the text of the rule only relates to pending suits—what then?  Even if you don’t have a valid Rule 11, you may still have a valid contract.  Of course, contracts are also enforceable by a court, but you’ll probably have to file a lawsuit, first.

So moral of the story?  Put everything in writing!  It may not seem important, but you never know when someone will conveniently forget what they’ve agreed to do.

How long can I expect a lawsuit to last?

A long time.

One of the hardest things about filing a lawsuit is managing your expectations about the speed of the proceedings. If Law and Order can get from crime scene to acquittal in an hour, why can’t you, right?

Unfortunately courts have substantial dockets, and depending on where your case is filed, it could take anywhere from a few weeks for your opponent to decide your right, to a few years for the Supreme Court to decide you’re right!

When should I contact a lawyer?

You should contact a lawyer if you’ve been wrongfully laid off because you’re older, or a woman; if you’re a man who has been wrongfully accused of harassment; if you’ve been arrested; anytime your gut tells you, “This just isn’t right!”

Your problem may not always have a legal solution, but if it does your rights have an expiration date. It’s called a statute of limitations, and it exists in almost every type of case. So if you wait to long, no matter how wrong they were, or how right you are, you may not be able to do anything about it.

Pro Se, saving money, but at what cost?

We wrote a little about going pro se—representing yourself—in our FAQs, but this recent article in the Los Angeles Times got us thinking about the issue even more.

There’s no question that the current economic climate makes representing oneself look very appealing, but the risks are daunting. In a criminal case you could face fines, a criminal record, probation, and even jail time. Civil court could spell financial disaster, or the loss of important rights and privileges.

But realistically we know some folks are going to give it the old college try, anyway. For you intrepid aspiring lawyers, here are some valuable resources…

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.  And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!

To sue, or not to sue?

We’ve danced around the issue of whether you should sue, and how quickly you have to decide. But we really have avoided the underlying issue: suing responsibly in what is often regarded as an overly litigious society. When we’re faced with cases like the Washingtonian who sued for $64 million over his pants, which were lost by the dry-cleaners, it’s easy to see why society is all up in arms about changing the way lawsuits and damage awards work.

But lawsuits, jury verdicts, huge damage awards–these aren’t bad things. They are just processes, which are subject to abuse by folks looking to make trouble.

Fundamentally, civil suits are about righting wrongs, leveling the playing field, and making sure the world is better for those who come after you. If that’s your goal, and not just a desire to grind someone into the dirt, you may be on the right track with a lawsuit.

If you’re still unsure whether a lawsuit is for you, think about mediation. Some folks mediate for a fee, and other places have volunteer mediators who will help you for little or nothing.

Remember folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own. And as always, our blog postings are not legal advice, nor do they constitute an attorney-client relationship!