General Structure of a Civil Case filed in an Oklahoma District Court
Commencement of a Lawsuit
- A lawsuit is commenced by filing the Petition and issuing Summons.
- The Summons and Petition are served on the defendant.
- The defendant has 20 days to file an Answer to the Petition or otherwise respond (filing a motion to dismiss for example).
- After the commencement of the case, the court will issue a Scheduling Order either on its own or by motion of a party.
- The Scheduling Order sets forth the deadlines for the parties to complete certain procedural milestones (for example, Deadlines to Add Parties or Claims, to Complete Discovery, or File Summary Judgment/Dispositive Motions).
- The Scheduling Order will set the date for a pre-trial conference and sometimes set a trial date.
- After the Answer is filed, the parties commence discovery. Some of the instruments used for discovery are as follows:
- Written Interrogatories – Responding party has 30 days to respond
- Request for Admissions – Responding party has 30 days to respond
- Request for Production of Documents – Responding party has 30 days to respond
- Subpoena Duces Tecums issued to Third-Parties seeking documents and/or testimony – Responding party has a minimum of 14 days to respond
Summary Judgment Proceedings
- After the discovery is completed, one or both parties typically file a motion for summary judgment seeking an adjudication of the claims by the judge without a trial. To win, a party must show that there is no dispute of a material fact necessary to prove an element of its claim or defense. To defeat summary judgment, a party must show that a dispute of a material fact exists necessitating a trial to decide the disputed facts.
- The pre-trial conference is a meeting that occurs between the presiding trial judge and counsel for the parties.
- The purpose of the conference is to discuss all remaining issues that need to be completed before the commencement of the trial.
- The trial judge will inquire if there are any objections to the evidence to be introduced at trial and if so will either hear the objections at the conference or set a hearing date to hear the objections. Often, the parties will file a motion in limine to state the objection to the introduction of certain evidence at trial and support the objection with argument and legal authorities.
- At the conclusion of the pre-trial conference, the judge will issue a pre-trial conference order setting forth the claims and defenses to be tried, the names of all witnesses to be called at trial along with a description of each witness’s scope of testimony, a list of all exhibits to be used at trial, the anticipated length of trial and the trial date.
- If the parties make it past the summary judgment stage without the trial judge entering a judgment on all claims, then the case moves to a trial on the merits of all remaining claims and defenses.
- Jury Trial – If the amount in controversy is less than $10,000, the case will be decided by a six (6) person jury. If the amount in controversy is $10,000 or more, the case will be decided by a twelve (12) person jury
- Judge Trial – If the parties waive a trial by jury, the trial judge will decide the case
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