Introduction to Civil Litigation – By Robert J. Enos, Esq.

Today, we begin a series on civil litigation by looking at the general framework of a civil lawsuit. Over the course of this series, senior litigator, Robert J. Enos, will be explaining common issues and answering common questions related to the litigation process. 

As always, if you have any questions about your real estate, business, estate planning, or any other legal issue, please let us know by e-mailing me

Also, remember that we do legal presentations for business and community organizations.  If your group would like to schedule a presentation related to estate planning, please contact Steve or me to setup a date and time.


Introduction to Civil Litigation – By Robert J. Enos, Esq.

Like land, civil cases vary with the nature and complexity of the legal and evidentiary issues involved. Some of the diverse cases we handle include real estate matters, business disputes, and contracts for example. If you think the legal situation you find yourself in requires a lawsuit, or you are confronted with a lawsuit here are some general civil procedure steps to anticipate.

Every case begins with the filing and service of a Summons and Complaint. The Complaint will often contain several “causes of action” such as “Breach of Contract”, “Quiet Title: or “Fraud”. After the Summons and Complaint have been filed in the appropriate county or federal court, they must be properly served on the defendant.

Once served the defendant(s) have 30 days from the date of service of the Summons and Complaint to serve either an Answer to the Complaint or a responsive pleading challenging the sufficiency of the Complaint including motions called a “Demurrer” and a “Motion to Strike”.

If the defendant(s) decide to file a demurrer or motion to strike, these motions must be heard and ruled upon before the matter may proceed. This can take several weeks if not months to resolve. If such motion is sustained and the court grants leave to amend the Complaint, an amended complaint must be drafted and served. Sometimes a second demurrer or motion will be filed which will require additional time to respond.

Once the Complaint and Answer have been filed both parties commence “discovery”. Depending on the case the following discovery devices may be used by the parties: Interrogatories which are written questions answered under penalty of perjury. Request for Production of Documents and Requests for Admissions are also commonly used.

After the initial written discovery has been completed the parties may require the other to appear in person to answer questions under oath in front of a court reporter. Depositions can also be taken from 3rd parties with the use of a subpoena. Documents may also be subpoenaed from third parties such as title companies or Banks.

If a party fails to comply with discovery requests, or a request for a deposition it may be necessary for the party propounding the discovery to make a motion in court to compel responses or attendance at a deposition, and to order sanctions paid by the non-compliant party.

In most jurisdictions, the litigants will appear at one or more Case Management Conferences (CMC). CMCs are designed to determine whether the case is ready for trial. From there the court will either order a trial setting conference or set it for trial.

In addition to setting a case for trial, the court will also set a Mandatory Settlement Conference (MSC) before the trial date. While it is good to always try to resolve cases as early as possible, MSCs are useful settlement mechanisms due to the intensity of the negotiations as the trial date approaches.

While most civil cases settle, in the event the case does not settle the only sure way to obtain resolution is by trial.


The attorneys of BPE Law Group, PC. have been advising our clients on real estate, business and estate planning issues for over 20 years and have assisted numerous clients in business and real estate matters and have represented clients in hundreds of lawsuits. If you have questions concerning any legal matter, give us a call at (916) 966-2260 or e-mail Keith at  or Robert at Our flat fee consult for new clients may get you the answers you need for the questions you have.

The information presented in this Article is not to be taken as legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. If you are facing a legal issue of any kind, get competent legal advice in your State immediately so that you can determine your best options.