To hold someone in contempt in a civil litigation usually means that a court determines that the person refused to obey a court order and will impose sanctions (penalties) until the person complies with the order.   For example, if a court orders a defendant in a civil litigation to disclose certain information to the plaintiff, and the defendants fails to do so, the court can hold the defendant in contempt.  The judge can order the defendant to pay fines until he complies with the order.

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