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Litigation Definitions

The following is a list of essential terms and definitions involved in the litigation process:

Answer – a paper filed by the Defendant, which endeavors to resist the Plaintiff’s Complaint by either denying allegations in the Plaintiff’s Complaint or confessing them and alleging new defenses to the Complaint.
Closing Argument – the closing argument is the final statements by the attorneys to the jury or court summarizing the evidence and proof they think they have established during the course of the trial and that which they think the other side has failed to establish.
Complaint – a paper filed by the Plaintiff to commence a lawsuit that describes the court’s jurisdiction, a short, plain statement of the claim, and a demand for relief.
Cross-examination – a series of questions asked of a witness by the opposing counsel following the direct examination of the attorney who called the witness. Cross-examination is primarily used to discredit a witness.
Defendant – the party being sued by the Plaintiff.
Deposition ? the out of court testimony of a witness that is transcribed by a court reporter.  A deposition is the taking of testimony under oath and it is just like trial testimony except that there is no judge or jury present. Your testimony at a deposition becomes a permanent part of the record in your case. Depositions are taken in order to find out what witnesses know and to establish as many facts as possible before trial.
Direct-examination – a series of questions asked by the attorney who calls a witness. The attorney is not allowed to ask leading questions.
Discovery – the process of disclosure by the Plaintiff and Defendant, at the other?s request, of facts or documents relevant to the dispute.  The discovery process commonly includes things such as interrogatories, depositions, requests for admissions, and requests for production or documents.
Evidence – all information which the Court or jury takes into account when reaching a determination. Evidence includes reports, documents, x-rays, photographs and testimony.
Interrogatories – a series of written questions to the Plaintiff or Defendant by the opposing counsel. This constitutes one of the first discovery requests by the opposing attorney.
Motion – a request made to a Judge for the purpose of obtaining a rule or order directing some act to be done in favor of the applicant.
Objection – an expression used by an attorney directing the Judge to make a ruling on whether a statement made by a witness is admissible.
Objection Overruled – an expression used by a Judge to indicate the evidence is admissible.
Objection Sustained – an expression used by a Judge stating the objection was valid and the evidence is inadmissible.
Opening – a statement made at the beginning of the trial by both attorneys. Each attorney will state why the Court or jury should find in favor of his or her client.
Plaintiff – the party who institutes a lawsuit.
Pretrial Conference – a meeting of the attorneys and Judge just prior to the beginning of a trial to clarify issues and attempt reaching a settlement.
Subpoena – a Court order requiring a person to appear before the Court at a particular time and place as a witness.
Subpoena Duces Tecum – a Court order requiring an authorized person of a business to bring specified records to the Court at a particular time and place.
Summons – a document which accompanies the Complaint and notifies the Defendant that they must respond to the Complaint within twenty (20) days or have their rights jeopardized.