Once the complaint and answer have been filed, and the discovery process has been finished, you’re still a ways away from opening statements at a trial. The court will now work to either avoid a trial or to make the trial as efficient as possible. That’s generally accomplished through a series of motions and motion hearings. There are generally two different types of motions—dispositive motions and evidentiary motions.
Dispositive motions take two forms—motions to dismiss a lawsuit, and motions to throw out some claims made by an injured party. Based on evidence gathered during the discovery phase, attorneys for the injured party may conclude that one or more of the defendants have not provided any evidence that will support a defense. Accordingly, rather than go through a trial where that will be the likely or certain outcome, the plaintiffs may ask the court for “summary judgment,” a ruling in their favor that obviates the need for a trial. In addition, if the plaintiffs can show that there are no genuine issues of material fact, a similar motion can be made.
Attorneys for the defendants can make a similar motion, based on allegations that the injured party has not provided evidence that will prove all the required elements of the case. In addition, if the plaintiff has included multiple claims in the lawsuit, the defendants can ask the court to limit the scope of the lawsuit by dismissing those claims that are not supported by the evidence.
During the discovery process, the rules of evidence are somewhat different than they are at trial. For example, at a deposition, a witness can provide testimony that would not be allowed at trial—it may be hearsay, speculation, or simply irrelevant. The purpose of the discovery period is to gather as much evidence as possible. However, at trial, it’s important that the jurors don’t hear or have access to evidence that is inappropriate, as it can taint the verdict (and it can’t be unheard). Accordingly, any known disputes regarding the admissibility of evidence are usually addressed before the trial, before a jury has been called. Introducing any evidence that the court has previously ruled to be inadmissible can be grounds for a mistrial, and even for disciplinary action.
Contact Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus
At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, we have fought for the rights of individuals throughout Delaware County since 1980. We offer a free initial consultation. To schedule an appointment, call us at 610-565-4055 or contact us online .