Law & Legal & Attorney Contract Law

What Happens When You Lose a Civil Complaint?


    • A civil complaint may be dismissed before the case ever reaches a trial, such as a summary judgment or dismissal for a procedural defect. Important to note is whether the judge dismissed the case with prejudice or without prejudice. A case dismissed with prejudice can never be re-filed under the principle of res judicata, similar to double jeopardy. Cases dismissed without prejudice may be re-filed after a particular issue is amended. The judge will explain why the case is being dismissed and the party is then free to fix the problem and re-file the same lawsuit at a later date.

    Appeal Decision

    • One of the most common actions for a losing party to a civil lawsuit is to appeal the decision to the next highest court. If the civil lawsuit was heard in a state trial court, the losing party may appeal to the next highest state court. If the lawsuit was heard in a federal district court, the losing party may appeal to the United States Circuit Court in the circuit the original case was heard. Under no circumstances may a state court litigant appeal directly to the federal courts. The U.S. Constitution requires the litigant to exhaust all state remedies first. Most state codes allow the losing party 30 days from entry of the trial court judgment to file an appeal.

    File Against Another Party

    • Despite principles of res judicata, a losing plaintiff may still be able to file a lawsuit based upon the same facts against a different party. In some civil situations, it may be unclear to the plaintiff exactly who is responsible for her injuries. If she files against one party and loses, there may be an opportunity to file a subsequent lawsuit against another involved party who was not named in the first lawsuit. An injured person can also file against not only the person who caused her harm but that person's employer as well.

    Legal Malpractice

    • In very limited circumstances, a losing party may have a claim against his attorney for losing a civil lawsuit. Civil lawsuits can be dismissed due to missing filing deadlines or statutes of limitations. If a lawsuit is dismissed due to the perceived negligence of your legal counsel, you may be able to raise a claim against the attorney in civil court for damages suffered as a result of missing his day in court.

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