This page and the information contained in it are merely a glimpse into some of the factors and considerations involved in a case. If you really want to understand the law and how it relates your particular situation, an experienced attorney must evaluate your individual case and apply the law to your facts. The below information is no substitute for an attorney and should be read in light of the fact that there is much more in the law regarding civil litigation than could possibly be described here. If you are considering hiring an attorney for your case, please contact us.
Civil litigation is a very broad term and in its literal interpretation encompasses all litigation that is not criminal. Our firm focuses on contract disputes, disputes between businesses or individuals regarding money, and disputes over real estate.
Prior to the filing of your case, you will have to decide which court is the proper court and which county is the proper county to file your case. It is important to have read the applicable rules of civil procedure and statutes in order to understand the various considerations and laws that influence where your case may or should be filed. For instance, if your claim for damages in your case is under $7,500, you may choose to file your case in small claims court. Your decision on which court to file in may depend on whether you want strict rules of evidence to apply to your trial, whether you want the option to engage in a process called "discovery" (described below), and many other considerations. As mentioned, you will also be faced with a decision on which county to file your case, which is referred to as the "venue." Sometimes, an action may be filed in more than one county. However, oftentimes only one county is the proper county, and filing in the wrong one may result in dismissal of your case entirely.
Civil cases are typically initiated by the aggrieved party (the "Plaintiff") filing a complaint and a few other documents (for a link to obtain these forms from the Colorado Judicial Branch website, visit our "Links" page). These documents are then personally served on the other party by a disinterested person, often a Sheriff's deputy or private process server. The other party (the "Defendant") will have a specified amount of time to respond to the complaint - often 21 or 35 days depending on whether the other party is in Colorado or outside the state. If the Defendant fails to respond at all, the Plaintiff might be entitled to a "default judgment." If the Defendant does respond the parties may or may not engage in "discovery," be ordered to attend mediation, attend depositions and engage in various other pretrial actions. Discovery is a process governed by various rules in the Colorado Rules of Civil Procedure that allows for the parties to request and exchange certain information in preparation for their case. This process may also involve the filing of various motions with the court. A motion is really just a formal request to the court to order something.
If the parties reach a full agreement on all of the issues, they can formalize the agreement in writing and file it with the court. The court will then typically adopt the agreement and make it an order of the court - enforceable just like any other court order. If they do not reach a full agreement, a trial will be set.
At the trial, both sides will present their evidence and testimony to the court. It might be in front of a judge or in front of a jury, depending on whether your case is the type that allows for a jury and if a party made a timely request for a jury. The Colorado Rules of Evidence will apply to the testimony and evidence that each party presents, although these rules are often relaxed if you file your case in small claims court. A thorough understanding of the rules of evidence is essential for proper case presentation and this is an area where an attorney can really provide necessary assistance. One of the unfortunate incidents our firm encounters when observing pro se parties in court (parties who do not have an attorney) is the denial of a party's attempted introduction of necessary and relevant evidence simply because the party does not know the applicable rules.
The various Colorado rules of procedure, rules of evidence, and other rules in Colorado's judicial system can be accessed here.
Colorado Small Claims Court forms, instructions and rules can be accessed here.