Resolving a Case Before Trial
In Arizona 98% of civil cases settle before trial. This is by design. The Supreme Court of Arizona decided long ago that settlements are the ideal conclusion to a case or controversy. Settlements save both parties money, save the courts money by reducing the number of trials, save time, and create a more amicable ending to what can be a distraught and expensive process. With this goal of judicial efficiency in mind, the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure are crafted in a way that encourages settlement along each step of the process. Here are the most common ways a civil case will settle:
1. Pre-litigation settlement
Before a lawsuit is even filed, many cases settle. This is of course the least expensive and quickest way to end a case. This will usually only happen when there is no question of liability. That is, the defendant has admitted fault. This type of settlement occurs when both parties come to an agreement over how much the case is worth.
2. Post-litigation settlement
Similar to pre-litigation settlement, cases will sometimes settle only after the Plaintiff has filed a lawsuit and the parties have had time to investigate the claim. The Defendant may take the Plaintiff’s deposition and decide, based on the evidence, to make an offer of settlement.
If both parties are motivated to settle a case, they may opt to hire a private mediator. This usually occurs in the months leading up to a scheduled trial. With the Defendant and her lawyer in one room, and the Plaintiff and his lawyer in another, the mediator will speak to each party individually in an attempt to strike a settlement. Prior to mediation, the parties submit confidential memos to the mediator highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of their case. A skilled mediator can often be worth the high cost if the case is able to settle and the parties can avoid an expensive trial.
4. Settlement Conference
A settlement conference is usually held at the Pima County Courthouse and uses a format similar to mediations. A Superior Court Judge will act as a mediator in an attempt to broker a settlement between both parties. These conferences are free for the parties, making them a good option for smaller cases.
Of course, if none of these methods work, the case will go to trial where a jury will decide the ultimate outcome. While trials can be expensive and risky, for one of every fifty cases, they are a necessity.
In addition to these popular forms of alternative dispute resolutions, there are many other ways in which a case can settle before trial. The Rockafellow Law Firm has over 40 years of experience in alternative dispute resolution.