Quote of the Day - He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.
Trying a Case to Win ItWe generally win cases, and many have asked how it’s done. While this advice may appear to be directed to attorneys, it’s actually for our clients. Everyone gets emotionally involved in a case, and that’s one of the main reasons to hire a lawyer. Plus, lawyers know the Court’s procedures, and they can take the day-to-day worries of litigation off your hands. But every client, at one time or another, wants to do it on their own. In a nutshell, here’s how:
Framing the issue is perhaps the most important aspect of trying a case. Try not to accept the other party’s version of the lawsuit, and instead look at it not from your perspective, but the way the jury is going to look at it. Before we start a case, we pull the jury instructions we expect the judge to give. Since that’s what you have to prove at the end of the case at trial, that’s what guides us throughout the case - through discovery and depositions, motions and ultimately trying the case.
Match up the documents and testimony you have on your side of the case to the elements of proof in the jury instructions. Since jury instructions are written for everyday people to understand, there’s not a lot of “legal-ese” in them. Once you have your proof lined up, you’re ready to go to trial. Now, you have to learn the evidence rules. Matlock, LA Law and Perry Mason are not good guides for how it’s really done. Take a class or go to court and watch - the latter is the fastest way to learn, and while you won’t understand everything, you’ll see how the most common objections are handled and argued.
Finally, once you win your case, you’ve got to collect on your judgment. That’s the really hard part. Enforcing a judgment is a procedural nightmare. If you haven’t hired a lawyer yet, now’s the time. Unless you can get the other party to just write you a check, you’ll have lots of paperwork to fill out.
Of course, over 95% of all cases settle, so hopefully you won’t have to go though the trial and judgment collection portions of litigation. Remember, though, that settlements are compromises, and compromises means everyone goes away with less than they really wanted.
The Statute of Limitations is RealYesterday, the California Supreme Court handed a victory to the building industry and struck a blow to homeowners’ claims for defects in their homes. The issue focused on California’s 10-year statute of limitations for latent defects. The homeowners argued that the statute was delayed while the builder's the promises to correct defects in their homes went unfulfilled.
Centex Homes' rebuttal argued that the statute of limitations is long enough, and the Court should strike the homeowners’ lawsuit filed after the 10-year cutoff. The Court said: “The generous but firm cutoff date for construction defect suits is supported by the statute's plain language and legislative history. The 10-year period is not subject to equitable tolling while promises or attempts to repair are pending.” Lantzy v. Centex Homes 2003 DJDAR 8638 (Aug. 4, 2003). You can find the decision at California Supreme Court Opinions.