What Judgements Can Come From A Lawsuit?
What are the things that you can get from a court case, or a civil lawsuit?
There’s three basic types of remedies that you can ask for in a civil lawsuit:
First is for damages, that’s obviously the most common type of resolution you think about in a lawsuit. Someone is able to ask the court to give money if you lost money in a contract, or if someone owes you for a debt, that’s what the damages are for. Sometimes damages can be for other types of losses you’ve incurred, beyond what the plaintiff or the defendant owes you. It could be that they cause you a loss of work, or they cause you to lose money because you have to fix something in your house. Those are the primary types of lawsuits that have to do with damages, but they’re not the only thing that you can ask for in a lawsuit.
You can ask for any or all of these other items; you can ask for an injunction which is an order that prevents a defendant from doing something. It could also be a specific performance injunction where they have to do something. For example it could be an injunction to stop building a house. It could be specific performance to execute a contract, or to transfer something to you. The court in addition to giving money can also give an order for a party to actually take some action or to not take action. You’ve heard of “get an injunction against doing something”? That’s the type of court order that can be issued.
There’s also an order for specific performance. Let’s say you have a party to a contract that refuses to go through with the deal, you can have a court issue, a specific performance order to go through with that deal. Now remember we’re not attorneys, we’re not giving you legal advice. We’re just giving you some overview of what we see in cases when we’re involved with them as an investigative agency, or insurance company mediator, that kind of thing.
Another type of remedy for a court can be what’s called a “declaratory judgment”. That means that the court is saying this is what the rights are, this is whose right this is, who’s wrong. It can declare something to be true. One example of that is what’s called a “court ordered title”. Let’s say if you’ve purchased a vehicle and there’s some question about the ownership. Maybe the seller didn’t give you a good title, or maybe it’s been damaged and there’s some question about who really this asset belongs to. The court can give a declaratory judgment or a judgment of ownership; where the order now defines who owns the vehicle. Those type of judgments are very valuable because they can force a third party to do something, like the Department of Motor Vehicles. If it’s a medical claim, a hospital might have to do something and as mentioned it’s not like you have to pick one or the other, you can actually get all three of these in a lawsuit. You can get damages, you can get an injunction, and you can get a declaratory judgment. You have to ask for them, the court usually can’t give you something you didn’t ask for. You have to ask for any of these things and when you ask for them you have to be specific in what type of judgment you want or what type of injunction injunction you want.
What is the role of the court or the judge?
Well some civil cases have a jury which decides it but the judge and the court in general; their role is to have an equitable outcome. That’s one of the things you can ask a court to do is to create an equitable result for a dispute. The equitable result could balance things out where they’re supposed to be. It could put things back to normal where they’re were before. It could be to offset again from one person, for another person because it was done unfairly. So when you look at what the court’s role is, they’re trying to evaluate the claims of both parties and find out what’s equitable and fair for a result.
Now at any time during the case obviously you can resolve this without going to the court and having the court decide what to do. You can do a settlement, an arbitration, a mediation, any of these things will immediately end the court case and confirm the result that was realized or achieved by the parties. That sometimes has an advantage because you don’t have to worry about throwing yourself to the whim of the court or jury which could go either way. Even if you think you’re right, you might have a result that doesn’t apply to you. Settlement at any point or alternative dispute resolution may be a good option because you can have control over the outcome without being at the mercy whatever the court or jury decides.
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