The complaint and answer have been filed, and discovery is complete. Don’t get ahead of yourself—there’s still a lot to be done before a trial can start. It’s important to understand that the court has an incentive, at all times, to make the trial process as efficient as possible, and, if at all possible, to avoid trial altogether. With that objective in mind, the court will next entertain motions from the parties, and will rule on those motions. There are generally two different types of motions—evidentiary motions and dispositive motions.
During discovery, the rules of evidence are generally more lax than they are at trial. The purpose of the discovery period is to gather as much evidence as possible. However, at trial, it’s important that the jurors don’t hear or have access to evidence that is inappropriate, as it can taint the verdict (and it can’t be unheard). Accordingly, a deposition witness may give testimony that would be inadmissible at trial, as hearsay, speculation, or simply irrelevant. To keep that evidence from compromising a jury decision, any known disputes regarding the admissibility of evidence are usually addressed before the trial, before a jury has been called. If an attorney subsequently introduces evidence that the court has previously ruled to be inadmissible, other parties can move for a mistrial, and offending attorneys may even face disciplinary action.
Dispositive motions take two forms—motions to dismiss a lawsuit, and motions to dismiss some claims made by one of the parties. For example, based on evidence gathered during the discovery phase, attorneys for the plaintiff may argue that the defendants have not provided sufficient evidence to support a valid defense. Rather than go through a trial, where that will be the likely outcome, the plaintiffs can ask the court for a “summary judgment” ruling, asking the court to rule in their favor without going to trial. A similar motion can be made if the plaintiffs can show that there are no genuine issues of material fact.
Attorneys for the defendants can also move to dismiss a lawsuit, alleging that the injured party has not produced evidence necessary to prove all the required elements of the case. In addition, if the plaintiff has included a number of claims in the lawsuit, the defendants can seek to limit the scope of the lawsuit by dismissing those claims not supported by the evidence.
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we offer more than 14 years of experience to people in New Jersey facing a broad array of legal challenges. Attorney Mark Cintron has worked as a prosecutor and has extensive courtroom experience, so he’s always ready, willing and able to protect your interests before a judge or jury. Contact our office online or call us at 201-791-1333 or (201) 535-0323 to set up an appointment.