We know you have questions. We have your answers.
*These responses cover most but not every scenario. If you have additional questions or want to discuss your individual case, feel free to contact Curry, Pearson & Wooten P.L.C. We are here to help you.
- Page 4
What happens in the trial process?
Trial is a formal matter, with each side usually having the right to have a trial by jury, which is made up of six to twelve lay persons selected from the voter roles of the locale. If both sides wish, they can waive the jury and have the, Judge, alone try the case. This is called a "bench" trial. Trials can last from a day or two to a year or more. Most commercial trials last between a week to three weeks. Each side has an opening statement, then the Plaintiff presents its case, followed by the Defendant presenting its case. The parties use witnesses and documents to prove their case and each witness, after testifying, may be cross examined by the counsel for the other side. One can force a witness to appear and can call the other side to the stand to be cross examined. After the parties have presented their respective cases, each side gives a closing argument to the judge or jury and a decision is rendered. It is up to the Parties and their lawyers to prove their case and conduct the trial. The judge makes sure the proper procedure and laws are obeyed. For this reason, in the United States, the attorney is a critical part of proving your case. The judge will not conduct an investigation of the facts. It is up to your lawyer, using documents, witnesses, and cross examination, to prove the case to the satisfaction of the Court or the jury. Even if the judge sees a party making an error or failing to prove a case, the Judge will normally not help.
What happens after a verdict is rendered?
Most judgments are for monetary damages. Only in unusual situations will a court order a party to do more than pay damages, but such orders ("injunctive relief" or "specific performance") may be obtained if the plaintiff proves that monetary damages will not really compensate the plaintiff for the damages caused. Once rendered, the judgment, if not paid, may be used to seize assets of the other party. If the defense wins the case, the Plaintiff may not bring the same action again. Absent contract providing for fees or a special statute, attorneys fees, are not awarded to the winning party, though such costs as filing fees may be. Pursuant to Arizona statute, the prevailing party in contract litigation is presumptively entitled to attorney fees. This is a critical matter to keep in mind: often winning a case results in little net gain if the attorney fees are so large as to make the eventual judgment relatively small.
Am I entitled to punitive damages?
Punitive Damages are unique to the United States courts and are normally not provided for in contract disputes. Wrong doing such as bad faith or fraud must be proven before punitive damages may be awarded. Intentional wrong doing or reckless negligence is normally required to obtain punitive damages and, more often than not, they are not awarded.
What is an appeal?
A judgment may be appealed, but an error of law must be proven to have a successful appeal and most appeals do not succeed. Appellate courts are loath to overturn lower courts. Unless a bond is posted, the party winning can normally enforce a judgment even during an appeal and since appeals often take years, the party appealing often posts a bond to save itself from enforcement of judgment during the period of waiting for a final decision from the appellate court.