How to Defend a Lawsuit – Part 3

Continuing our series on how to defend a lawsuit, this week’s blog focuses on settlement prospects (part 1), as well as effective use of summary judgment.

Continuing our series on how to defend a lawsuit, this week’s blog focuses on initial settlement prospects and summary judgment.

For an overview of defending lawsuits, please see our last 2 entries in this category.

If you need help with litigation defense or protecting your interests against a lawsuit please do not hesitate to contact us, in Seattle at (206) 407-2536, Redmond WA at (425) 274-9795, or Portland at (503) 224-9946. We will be happy to guide you through the process and help you make the best of your situation.

Step 6 – Settlement, Part 1

At this point in the case, the Defendant’s position should be at its strongest. You will still have two cracks at bat to get Plaintiffs’ claims defeated – summary judgment (SJ) and trial (including an in-trial motion for directed verdict), and you should be well-enough armed to give you your best available chance to do so. That strength means it’s a good time to try to settle the case.

In pre-SJ settlement, video clips of the Plaintiff’s admissions in deposition can be powerful evidence. If your evidence outclasses your opponents’, your prospects for a favorable settlement may be strong. You may be able to convince the other side to accept a smaller cash sum by offering other incentives not typically available through the court system (this varies greatly case by case).

Step 7 – Effective Use of Summary Judgment

Summary judgment often presents a vital opportunity for a defendant to defeat claims before trial. Summary judgment is available where there is insufficient evidence to create a material issue of fact at trial. Court holdings are all over the map on what that means, but it’s a safe bet that in most cases, evidence that seems ample to one party will seem insufficient to another. So in most cases, at least one party (usually the defendant) will file a motion for summary judgment.

When it is appropriate on the facts, a defendant may move to dismiss claims by summary judgment. Motions for SJ are presented to a judge, who decides as a matter of law whether a sufficient issue fact exists for the jury.

This is where the smart work you’ve put into discovery will come in handy. If you’re being sued for the actions of somebody who was supposedly your agent, you might challenge claims of negligence based on proof that the actor did not have your authority to do what he did, and that there is no proof that you ratified the conduct after the fact. If you face a claim for employment discrimination, you may show the Plaintiff has little to no proof that he was dismissed for an improper reason.

The judges who decide these motions are people too. They live in the 21st century, just like you do. They often find video evidence of an admission more compelling than the reading of that admission into the record from a transcript.

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