Trial and Litigation Lawyer
When you hire a lawyer in an employment case, you want someone with experience in the courtroom—someone who knows how to tell a compelling story to the jury and someone who knows the nuances of the law in your case even better than the judge.
This is what happens in a typical civil case. When Pechtel Law PLLC and a client agree to a representation in writing, the first step is to gather all the evidence we can. This includes the client’s records, public records requests, medical records, requests for records from the current/former employer and witness interviews. Once the investigation is complete, we may send a demand letter to the at-fault employer that says what happened, why it was unlawful, how the client was harmed, and what the client wants to offset the harms he or she suffered. If the demand letter does not resolve the dispute, then we will draft a Complaint. This is a legal document that alleges the basic facts of the case and explains the client’s legal claims, and the relief the client demands (usually money). We also draft a Summons. The Summons is a legal document that tells the at-fault employer they are being sued and have a certain amount of time to respond to the Complaint.
A lawsuit begins when the Complaint and Summons are filed with the court or served on the at-fault employer. To serve the documents, we hire a professional known as a process server. They are experienced in following the technical rules of service of process and ensure it is done properly.
The at-fault employer will have a short period of time to admit or deny the allegations in the Complaint after they are served. They do this in a document called the Answer. They will serve the Answer on us and file it with the Court.
The Complaint and Answer are called “pleadings.” After the pleadings are filed and served, our client and the at-fault employer will be able to use a few legal tools to get information and evidence from each other. Some of those tools are interrogatories, requests for production, and depositions. Interrogatories are written questions that the other party must answer under oath. Requests for production are requests to the other party to provide documents and electronically stored information (emails, computer files, etc.) to us. Depositions are in-person interviews under oath. The court reporter will take word-for-word notes of everything said during a deposition.
A lot of time is spent during discovery in finding information, documents, and electronically stored information to respond to the employer’s interrogatories and requests for production. A lot of time is also spent reviewing the answers, documents, and electronically stored information the employer gives to us. Some time is also required to prepare for and take or defend depositions.
During this period, the parties are also identifying expert witnesses and consultants. Some commons experts include forensic economists (to calculate lost wages), vocational rehabilitation experts (to testify about jobs the plaintiff could have taken after being fired), technology experts (to advise us on requesting and reviewing unique types of electronically stored information), forensic psychiatrists or psychologists (to testify about the plaintiff’s emotional distress), and healthcare providers or experts (to testify about the plaintiff’s disability in disability discrimination/failure to accommodate cases). Other experts may be used for parts of the case that would be difficult for the jury to understand.
Once discovery is complete and information about experts is exchanged, the parties may move (a lawyer word for asking) the court to award them summary judgement. The basic principle behind summary judgment is that one party tells the judge that everyone agrees on the facts, so the judge doesn’t need a jury to decide what happened. That means the judge can decide who wins and who loses without a trial. To oppose summary judgment and go to trial, a plaintiff must show that the parties disagree about some important facts that could change the outcome of trial.
If the judge denies the motion for summary judgment, the case will go to trial. The trial begins by selecting a jury. After the jury is selected, each side gives an opening statement to the jury. Then the plaintiff will have witnesses testify and introduce exhibits. The at-fault employer will be allowed to question those witnesses and introduce exhibits. After the plaintiff has no more witnesses, the at-fault employer can have other witnesses testify and introduce additional exhibits. The plaintiff can also question these witnesses. At the end of the case, the judge will read the jury some instructions on how they are to decide the case. Then the lawyers for each side will get to address the jury one more time to explain why they think their side should win. Finally, the jury will go to a room by themselves to decide who wins and who loses. They will also decide how much money will change hands, if any. When the jury has a verdict (a lawyer word for a jury’s decision), the judge will read it out loud.
If either party is unhappy with the outcome, they can file an appeal. An appeals court can deny the appeal or agree with it. If they agree, they can send the case back for a new trial.
At any time during this whole process, the parties can settle the case by agreeing to terms. A settlement usually has the at-fault employer paying the client an amount of money in exchange for getting rid of the case and releasing them from liability. The most common times a case settles are after the demand letter is sent, after the complaint is served or filed, right before summary judgment, and right after summary judgment.