A civil lawsuit has several components. After we do an investigation and we are ready to file, we file what’s called a complaint. The complaint is actually the lawsuit that’s filed against the institution, the perpetrators, etc. That starts the legal process. Typically, the defendants might file what’s called a motion to dismiss if there’s statute of limitations issues, which when I’m representing adult survivors, that comes up a lot. And I’ve dealt with these issues across the country. And it’s a complicated issue, one that I deal with literally on a daily basis.
If and when we get by the motion to dismiss, we’re into what’s called the discovery phase. The defendants file an answer to the complaint, and then we’re able to take depositions, do what’s called interrogatories where we ask written questions, ask for documents. Each side exchanges documents, etc. That’s sort of the meat of the lawsuit as you’re preparing for trial. Ultimately, we set the case for a trial, and that’s where we go before a jury and we present our case.
Before that happens, there’s a mediation. That’s a settlement conference where most courts require that now. We sit down with an independent person and talk about settlement issues. If it doesn’t settle, we go to trial. And for me, the trial is the best part. I’ve been there, I love it. I enjoy being able to represent the victim, and hold the institution accountable, and really present the evidence and lay it out for a jury to see what really happened.
I know a lot of victims are so nervous about actually having a deposition or testifying in trial. But by the time that comes around, they’re so empowered that they cannot wait to get up and tell their story. And I think it’s an important part of the healing process, and it actually is a very positive thing for a victim who’s participating in a civil lawsuit.