Complex Litigation

Litigation in a trial court (as opposed to an appellate court) that involves complicated legal issues is sometimes referred to in the legal profession as “complex litigation.” It may also involve a complicated fact pattern and/or voluminous evidentiary material.

Some cases do not appear to be complicated when they are first commenced, but they become complicated during the life of the case.  This may occur at a relatively early stage when one of the parties makes a dispositive motion, i.e., a motion to dismiss, or a motion for summary judgment, in which it is argued that certain issues are decisive of the case, and therefore, no trial is required. If such a motion is granted, the case is over. Therefore, they can be critically important.

Too often, dispositive motion are given inadequate attention, and it is only after such a motion has been lost that appellate counsel are consulted. At that point, the case is already dead on arrival, and a heroic effort must be made to revive it.

The same set of skills that make appellate attorneys proficient at writing appellate briefs also equips them to draft persuasive motion papers and memoranda of law. Thus, appellate attorneys are often called upon to act as “outside counsel,” providing support “behind the scenes,” so that trial counsel can focus his or her energies on the battle in the courtroom.

In some instances, a two-pronged strategy is appropriate, which involves filing a notice of appeal, in order to preserve the right to appeal, and then making a motion to “reargue” or to “renew.” Such motions are inherently difficult because they are made only after there has been an adverse decision. Persuading a court to grant such a motion is an uphill battle, and it requires a compelling argument that is amply supported by legal authority.

On a motion to “reargue,” or to set aside a judge’s decision after a bench trial, it must be shown respectfully and tactfully that the Court overlooked, or misunderstood certain facts, and/or that it misapplied the law.

A motion to “renew” must generally be based upon facts or documents that the movant did not have, or was not aware of at the time of the original motion; but this requirement is flexible, and the Court, in its discretion, may grant renewal based upon evidence which the movant did have at the time of the original motion, or was aware of.  The statute requires that the movant demonstrate a “reasonable justification” for the failure to submit the new material on the original motion.  Case law shows that this is also a flexible standard, and that inadvertence may constitute a sufficient excuse (either you meant to include something, and inadvertently did not, or you did not know something was required, and on renewal, you include it).  An additional ground for renewal is a change in the law.  Lastly,  if the court’s order was based, in part, upon an issue that had not been raised by the parties in their motion papers, renewal may be requested to address that particular issue.

On a motion to “set aside a verdict,” it may be argued that there can be no confidence in the verdict because the Court’s charge to the jury was erroneous; that the evidence is legally insufficient to support the verdict; and/or that the verdict is against the weight of the credible evidence.

These are just a few examples of the types of motions that may require extensive research and carefully written legal arguments in the course of a lawsuit.  The more complex the case, the more time and attention may be required to achieve a favorable outcome.