Ways of Ending Litigation
A lawsuit, also known as a cause of action, can end in several ways. It is almost proverbial that 9 out of 10 cases do not go to trial. Statistically, this seems to be fairly close to the truth in at least some federal courts and probably in many state courts too.
After a plaintiff files a Complaint, the defendant can immediately seek to have it dismissed on any of a variety of grounds. The process for doing this is called a Motion to Dismiss.
The grounds for dismissal recited in the Motion to Dismiss, which can be different for federal courts and state courts, are: lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a cause of action, among others. Different forum courts may have unique additional grounds for dismissal as well.
If the lawsuit survives a Motion to Dismiss, it can be ended in other ways, such as by settlement, Motion for Summary Judgment, and on a Trial on the merits of the case. These are discussed further hereunder.
A settlement occurs when both parties can agree on a resolution of the case. This most often happens when a Defendant wants to end the litigation by paying the Plaintiff a portion of what the Plaintiff is seeking. This is done to avoid the further legal costs associated with conducting a trial. Many lawsuits are settled literally on the courthouse steps prior to a trial. A settlement is also appropriate when, during the discovery phase, it is discovered that the Plaintiff cannot prove the allegations of the Complaint, or the Defendant can show a sufficient Defense to the allegations of the Complaint.
A Motion for Summary Judgment can be filed when one party believes it has sufficient evidence to enable the Judge to determine a result. This type of Motion is very favorably viewed by most courts. The Motion itself presents some of the evidence developed during the discovery phase, such as affidavits, Deposition transcripts, and/or documents.
Finally, there is the Trial stage of litigation. Approximately only ten percent of cases reach this stage. The Judge or the Jury (in cases where there is a Jury trial) determines the outcome.
But, it does not stop with the Trial. The losing party at Trial may still file a Motion for Judgment in its favor “notwithstanding the verdict.” And, the losing party can Appeal to a higher court. Sometimes, even the winning party will appeal a portion of the verdict.
There is more to all this, of course. The foregoing is just a summary of some of the things that can happen during a lawsuit that will end it.