The Four Ways to End a Lawsuit
Litigation can be costly, time-consuming, and stressful. If you get sued (or if you sue someone else), the litigation will typically end in one of the following four ways:
- Motion to Dismiss: If a motion to dismiss is filed, it is usually brought shortly after a lawsuit is filed. On a motion to dismiss, the defendant argues that the plaintiff’s complaint does not set forth a sufficient factual basis to impose liability or that the claim is barred for some other reason (e.g., statute of limitations, failure to exhaust administrative remedies, etc…).
- Motion for Summary Judgment: A motion for summary judgment is usually brought at or near the close of discovery, but before trial. On a motion for summary judgment, the defendant argues that there is not enough evidence for the judge or jury to find in favor of the plaintiff. Alternatively, either the plaintiff or the defendant may argue that the evidence requires the court to rule in its favor.
- Trial: If a motion for summary judgment fails and no settlement is reached, the case will go to trial. After the trial and any post-trial motions, the judge or jury will decide who wins and how much damages, if any, will be awarded.
- Settlement: If the parties are able to reach a compromise at some point before trial, the case will settle. The vast majority of civil cases end this way. A common rule of thumb is that the settlement is good if no one is happy with it.
Even if litigation ends through one of the above methods, the losing party typically has a right of appeal. In the case of a settlement, disputes may arise regarding whether the parties have complied with the terms of the settlement agreement. Therefore, whenever a lawsuit is filed, there is always a possibility that the dispute will drag on for a long, long time.