Civil Lawsuit Lawyer Near Toledo, Ohio

Sawan & Sawan - Local Family-Owned Toledo Law Firm

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If you’re involved in a lawsuit, there’s simply no substitute for hiring competent legal counsel. The rules governing litigation are extremely complex and can greatly impact the outcome of the litigation. In state and federal court, there are Rules of Civil Procedure that govern virtually every aspect of a lawsuit to some extent. The federal and state Rules of Civil Procedure are fairly uniform. Local rules in various U.S. District Courts (federal) and individual counties in state courts slightly modify procedures; but for the most part, most suits are comprised of same basic documents and activities. There’s just no substitute for the knowledge and experience of an attorney who has studied and put these rules into practice. We offer free consultations so contact us to discuss your case. 

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How Civil Lawsuits Work

A lawsuit starts when one party – either a person or company (The Plaintiff) – prepares and files a document in a Court of appropriate jurisdiction over the parties alleging some kind of wrongdoing by another person or company (The Defendant).

The Complaint

The first document that’s filed is the complaint, a document that provides the basic outline of the factual allegations. Attached to the complaint is often a Summons, which advises the party being sued that they have a limited number of days in which to file a formal answer to the allegations contained in the Complaint.

Answer, Counterclaims and Cross Claims

After being served with the summons and somplaint, the Defendant is typically allowed 28 days in which to respond to the factual allegations of the Complaint (Defendant’s Answer). The Defendant may also file a counterclaim against the Plaintiff for damages the Defendant says he or she suffered due to an alleged wrongdoing of the Plaintiff, arising out of the same transaction or occurrence that gave rise to the original suit. The counterclaim is filed as part of the Defendant’s Answer generally, but not always. There are specific rules governing counterclaims depending on the facts and circumstances. When more than one Defendant is being sued by one or more Plaintiffs, and one Defendant files a claim against a co-Defendant, that is called a cross-claim. The responses to counterclaims and cross-claims are respectively entitled replies but are also technically answers.

Default Judgment

Every Court has a specific time in which an answer must be filed after being provided notice of the filing of a complaint. Should a Defendant fail to file this, the rules of Civil Procedure provide for a judgment in favor of the complaining party. This is called a Default Judgment – and it is typically done through a non-adversarial proceeding in which testimony is provided to the Court about the damages sustained. This process is called an Assessment of Damages hearing.


Discovery refers to a time period during a lawsuit that begins after a complaint and answer is files but before a trial is held. This period of time exists to permit all parties to “discover” evidence that may prove beneficial to their position and assist the trier of fact in determining the truth. A broad array of information is gathered through the use of various tools of the litigation discovery process. At the outset, the parties engage in “written discovery.” That means that the Plaintiff and Defendant will send each other “interrogatories,” “Requests for Production,” and “Requests for Admission.” In addition, subpoenas may be issues.

  • Interrogatories are questions that must be answered, exchanged by the parties, subject to court oversight if the questions are too burdensome or not within the scope of discovery.
  • Requests for Production ask the party to send copies of documents; RFP request access to inspect evidence another party may have in their possession, such as documents, photos, videos; or RFP can request access to the site of an incident if the site is on the Defendant’s property, for example.
  • Requests for Admission are documents asking a party to admit to certain facts or to admit the authenticity of documents or things.
  • Subpoenas are documents signed by an officer of the court (attorneys are officers of the court), requiring a person or company to produce documents and/or appear in person to testify about documents or incidents that pertain to the suit in question. However, the court will not allow for overly burdensome requests or undue expense; and privacy issues sometimes arise, so disputes are often resolved by the court as the litigation proceeds.

Motion Pleading

During the litigation, disputes sometimes arise over discovery or other matters and the court must consider a variety of written motions. Other kinds of motions may partially or fully bring an end to a case, such as a “Motion for Summary Judgment” While many disputes between parties are handled informally through cooperation, sometimes an issue creates an impasse and a judicial ruling is necessary to set appropriate ground rules. Motion pleading is highly strategic – thus, it is wise to discuss a strategy for this type of pleading with a qualified civil litigator.

Pre-Trial Mediation or ADR

Often times, a Court will order that – prior to trial – the parties attempt to settle their disputes informally through a process called mediation. In some jurisdictions, mediation is mandatory. In others, it is not. Regardless, it is always a good idea to consider mediation – as it can prove less risky than a trial.


If the parties are unable to come to an agreement through mediation, the parties will proceed to a trial before a judge or jury. It is typically the Plaintiff’s decision as to whether he or she would like to try the matter directly to a judge, or to a jury of his or her peers. There is no one right answer for which option is preferred – as different cases require a different approach.

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Dennis P. Sawan

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Christopher A. Sawan


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