Category: Civil Procedure

What are Interrogatories?

Interrogatories are a discovery device.  During the discovery phase of a civil litigation the parties share and acquire evidence regarding the case. Interrogatories are written inquiries one party sends to the other party.  Often, but not always, interrogatories are in the form of a question.  Interrogatories might ask a party to describe an accident or to name witnesses.  The party receiving the interrogatory must usually respond to the interrogatories in writing. Please keep in mind that rules for interrogatories can vary from state to state and also between federal court and state court.  Interrogatories in the federal courts are...

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How do parties make and oppose motions in the United States?

  The video above presents several important aspects of motion practice, including what a motion is, the notice of motion, supporting the motion, and opposing the motion. Keep in mind that different motions (and different courts) require different steps when making and opposing a motion.  For example, a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 in federal court requires certain supporting documentation that would not be required for a Rule 12 motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.  State court motions will look a bit different from state to state. Get a Civ Pro Quiz Ebook! 101 Civ Pro Questions and Explanations...

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What is the difference between judgment as a matter of law and summary judgment?

Briefly, motions for JMOL and summary judgment are very similar in that  judges apply similar legal standards when deciding these motions, but they are different because they take place at different times during a civil case.  Summary judgment is a pre-trial motion, JMOL is an in-trial or post trial motion. In the federal courts JMOL is governed by Rule 50.  The moving party must wait until its adversary has had an opportunity to present its case before moving for JMOL.  In the motion, the moving party asks the court to rule in its favor because the law and the evidence demonstrate that the moving party must win on one or more issues.  There is no need for a jury to deliberate.  A motion for JMOL has tactical advantages because if the judge denies the motion, the moving party can move again after the trial (a “renewed” motion for JMOL) pursuant to Rule 59. A summary judgment motion, Rule 56, also asks the judge to rule in favor of one party on one or more issues.  Similar to JMOL, the motion argues that the evidence and the law so clearly favors the moving party that the judge should rule in the moving party’s favor.  Typically motions for summary judgment take place after discovery is complete  because at that point the parties have shared all the important evidence in the case.  However, it...

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When do states have personal jurisdiction over out-of-state insurance companies?

I received an email about personal jurisdiction over out-of-state insurance companies where the plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident.¹ As a general rule, if the court has personal jurisdiction over the defendant driver in an automobile accident and the insurance company insured the defendant driver, personal jurisdiction over the insurance company is usually not a problem     The idea is that the insurance company is tied to the defendant.  So if the defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction the court can assert personal jurisdiction over the defendant’s insurance company even if the insurance company does not have any business with the forum state. More complicated questions arise where a plaintiff sues an insurance company for failing to provide coverage following an incident, such as a fire.  In those cases, a court is not going to be able to assert personal jurisdiction simply because the insurance company is tied to a defendant.  The court will likely follow a traditional analysis to determine whether there is personal jurisdiction:  did the insurance company have sufficient contacts with the forum state and is the lawsuit related to those contacts? ¹ Actually she asked about venue but I think she meant personal jurisdiction.  If I’m wrong, please let me...

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