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LITIGATION

A case, controversy, or lawsuit. A contest authorized by law, in a court of justice, for the purpose of enforcing a right. Participants (plaintiffs and defendants) in lawsuits are called litigants.

The process of bringing and pursuing a lawsuit. Litigation often proceeds much like trench warfare; initial court papers define the parties' legal positions as trenches define battlefield positions. After the initial activity, lawyers sit back for several months or years and lob legal artillery at each other until they grow tired of the warfare and begin settlement negotiations. If settlement is unsuccessful (90+% of all lawsuits are settled without trial), the case goes to trial, and the trial may be followed by a lengthy appeal.

Many states have enacted, or are considering, reforms directed at shortening the time a case takes to get to trial and minimizing the expense traditionally associated with litigation. Among these reforms are:

'Fast track' rules that prohibit delays and require each phase of the case to be completed within a particular period of time;

Limits on how much information can be obtained from the opposing party;

Requirements that certain types of cases be arbitrated (a simpler procedure) rather than pushed through the court system;

Requirements that attorneys inform their clients of alternative dispute resolution procedures such as mediation, and;

Court-sponsored techniques such as mini-trials and early neutral evaluation that are designed to get the parties to settle by giving them a realistic assessment of what is likely to happen if the case goes to trial.

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