Michigan State Court System

  • District Court: This Court handles civil cases where the amount in controversy is up to $25,000.
  • Circuit Court: The Circuit Court is a court of general jurisdiction, which handles all civil cases with claims of more than $25,000.
  • Court of Appeals:The Court of Appeals is the court of general appellate jurisdiction. It hears appeals from final orders of the circuit court.
  • Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is Michigan’s highest court and court of last resort. It has the discretionary authority to hear cases, primarily for decisions made by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

*Some of the courts in the Michigan Court System also have jurisdiction over other proceedings which are not covered here.

Pleadings

In the beginning stages of a lawsuit legal documents called pleadings are filed. To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff files a pleading called a Complaint which sets forth one or more causes of action against the defendant(s) named in the Complaint. After the Plaintiff files the Complaint and properly serves the Complaint on the Defendant(s), the Defendant(s) then have 21 days from the date of service to file a pleading called an Answer. The Defendant(s)’ Answer will respond to each of the causes of action in the Plaintiff’s Complaint and set forth any defenses, cross claims and/or counter claims the Defendant(s) will raise.

Discovery

After all parties to the lawsuit have filed pleadings, the case then proceeds to Discovery. Essentially, the discovery process is a fact-finding and investigative endeavor in which each party gathers information and evidence from opposing parties and/or non-party witnesses. While the discovery process includes a variety of other mechanisms used to gather information, it will generally consist of the following:

  • Written Discovery: is generally used at the start of discovery and comes in two basic forms:

    • Interrogatories – Formal questions and/or requests for information served on one party by an opposing party. The party served with interrogatories must provide written responses to each of the interrogatories or respond with an objection to the interrogatory.
    • Requests for Production of Documents – Often served with a set of interrogatories, requests for production of documents are formal requests for certain documentation relevant to the claims and defenses raised in the pleadings.
  • Depositions: In a deposition, either a party to the lawsuit or a non-party witness will provide oral testimony under oath and in the presence of a court reporter who makes a written record of everything said during the deposition.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution covers a wide variety of processes involving third-party neutrals intended to resolve disputes between parties without formal judicial proceedings. Outside of the spectrum of ADR processes at one end are unassisted direct-party negotiations; outside at the other end is formal adjudication to a binding decision by a court. ADR processes range from moderated dialogues to binding decisions by third parties in proceedings much like proceedings in court. Because most cases settle before trial, the court system sees integration of ADR into litigation as offering the opportunity to achieve settlements more quickly than would otherwise be the case if litigation proceeded to the trial phase.

Trial

If the parties have not reached a settlement through mediation or otherwise, at the conclusion of discovery, the case then proceeds to trial. Depending on the complexity of the case, a trial can take as little as a single day or as long as several weeks to complete. At the conclusion of a typical civil trial, the jury will return a verdict for the plaintiff and award money damages to the plaintiff or the jury will return a verdict for the defendant finding that the defendant was not at fault.

Motions and Appeals

After a final judgment is entered, the party wishing to appeal must file a notice of appeal with the clerk of the court within 42 days after the entry of the final judgment.

Recovery

Once a settlement is reached, a verdict is entered, or a default is entered (if the defendant did not answer the complaint), a judgment must be prepared. In most cases, the judgment is prepared by the prevailing party and entered by the court. Depending on the type of case and how the judgment was arrived at, a hearing may be necessary to enter the order. All judgments must be signed by the judge and dated with the date they are signed. To be effective, a judgment must be filed with the clerk of the court, and the prevailing party must serve a copy on the other party. A judgment rendered in Michigan is valid for 5 years.

DISCLAIMER:

The law firm of Walker Morgan is located at 135 E Main St., Lexington, SC 29072. All lawyers at Walker Morgan are licensed to practice law in the State of South Carolina. Should you wish to retain our firm for legal representation regarding a potential case in any other jurisdiction we are required to associate local counsel in that foreign jurisdiction and seek permission from a court of the foreign jurisdiction to temporarily engage in the practice of law therein for purposes of pursuing your potential claim only.

By offering the following information the lawyers at Walker Morgan are not offering legal advice or legal guidance. The lawyers at Walker Morgan are not licensed to practice law in Michigan. Should you have a question/concern specific to Michigan law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan.