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The power of motions: Ending litigation before it really begins

Has someone filed a lawsuit against you or your company? Do you envision spending long hours and large amounts of money waiting for a court to decide your fate? Fortunately, not all lawsuits end up in trial, and not just because they settle. Several types of motions exist that could end the litigation before it even has a chance to really begin.

Define "motion"

When filing a motion during litigation, you request that the court enter a ruling on a certain matter. Two types of motions exist:

  • Dispositive: These motions could end the litigation.
  • Nondispositive: The ruling on these motions simply answers an incidental question.

This article focuses on the types of dispositive motions filed by defendants that could end your litigation.

Motion to dismiss

Ordinarily filed in the early stages of a lawsuit, a motion to dismiss requests that the court end the litigation based on one of the following factors:

  • The court does not have jurisdiction over you, your company or the subject matter.
  • The plaintiff chose the wrong venue, or place, to file the lawsuit.
  • Improper service could lead to a dismissal. In the alternative, an improperly drafted or issued summons might negate service.
  • The complaint might not allege a legal basis for suing you.

Any of these deficiencies could cause the court to dismiss the case against you, but the plaintiff often retains the right to re-file the claim properly.

Motion for summary judgment

In some cases, you might not dispute the facts as outlined in the complaint. Judges and juries decide what the facts actually are at trial. If you don't dispute the facts, you can ask the court to make a ruling based on the pleadings as filed. Your motion includes an argument regarding why the court should rule in your favor. If granted, the litigation ends there. The plaintiff receives the opportunity to respond to the motion prior to any ruling by the court. If the court determines that some facts remain in dispute, the case continues.

Sua sponte dismissal

The court could take the initiative and dismiss the case of its own accord. For example, the judge could dismiss the case if he or she realizes that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear it.

Am I supposed to know what motions to file?

No. You aren't expected to know whether you can file a motion to dismiss, a motion for summary judgment or both. However, a Texas litigation attorney should know, based on the facts of the case, whether either motion could result in the termination of the lawsuit before it goes to trial. If the court denies either or both motions, your attorney will need to continue to prepare for trial and pursue settlement opportunities, if appropriate.

Having an experienced litigator on your side could provide you with opportunities to end the case without the time and expense of going to trial, which is preferable in most cases. However, you also need someone who doesn't hesitate to move forward if that decision best suits your needs.

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