Stages of Litigation

| Steve Handelin

There are many stages to the resolution of litigation. This blog post is a continuation from our Nevada Litigation page.


The Complaint is the formal pleading that starts the litigation process. The purpose of the Complaint is to set forth the parties and facts that form, and support, the legal theories of legal liability, as well as setting forth damages. As a general principal, it must be personally served on each defendant. However, under certain circumstances, personal service may not be required. In Nevada, service must occur within 120 days of filing. In California, the Complaint must be serve within 60 days of filing. Court can extend this deadline for good cause, but it is always advisable to comply with all deadlines.

Responsive Pleadings

A Defendant, in response to being served with the Complaint, has several options insofar as responsive pleadings. The most common responsive pleading is an Answer, where the Defendant ether admits or denies the specific allegations in t he Complaint and offers affirmative defenses. A counterclaim is also fairly common, wherein the Defendant files a lawsuit against the Plaintiff. A cross claim occasionally brings in a third party. Depending on the court in which the Complaint was filed, the responsive pleading must be filed with 20-30 days of service.


Discovery is the fact gathering process that the parties engage in, in order to identify and seek evidence in order to prove and support a claim or a defense. Discovery includes interrogatories, requests for the production of documents, requests for admissions, depositions, or subpoenas. Interrogatories are written questions that an opposing party must respond to in writing. Requests for the Production of Documents require a party to produce or allow inspection of documents or things. Requests for Admissions are written requests for a party to admit facts. Depositions are oral examinations of a party or witness that are under administered under oath. A court reporter sits in on a deposition, and then transcribes the questions and answers. Subpoenas are used to compel a non-party to produce documents or to testify at a deposition or trial.

Dispositive Motions

Dispositive motions are papers filed with the Court, usually supported with either testamentary or documentary evidence that seeks a partial or total disposition of the case. Dispositive motions can be several forms, but the most common are motions for summary judgment. Dispositive motions are, in the eyes of the law, a disposition based on the merits.

Pretrial Orders

Pretrial orders are issued in every case to set forth the trial scheduling, setting deadlines for discovery any, dispositive motions, motions in limine and trail statements. While these deadlines are set forth in the Court Rules, it provides all parties certainty and to avoid confusion.


A trial is the fact presentation and ruling phase in a formal hearing setting. A judge presides over the trial to ensure the rules of evidence are adhered to and to maintain order. A trial takes place after discovery and all other motions practice is complete. The trier of fact of a trial can be either the judge only, or a jury comprised of people in the community where the action is brought. A trial can take several hours or several weeks, depending on the issues to be tried and the complexity of the case.


A judgment is typically the goal of every lawsuit. A judgment can be in favor of the Plaintiff or Defendant. A judgment can be obtained several ways, such as by default, dispositive motion or after the full trial.


All parties involved with a lawsuit have the right to appeal the final decision and order, if there are legal or factual grounds to do so.

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| Steve Handelin

Thank you for visiting the new website of Handelin Law. We’ll be posting articles and information on Business Formation and Advisement (including business transactions), Estate Planning, and litigation, as well as other areas of practice that we feel may be of interest to you.