Minnesota State Court System

  • District Court: The District Court is a court of original jurisdiction for civil cases, including personal injury actions.
  • Court of Appeals:The Court of Appeals is the court of general appellate jurisdiction. It hears most cases appealed from the district courts.
  • Minnesota Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the highest court in the State of Minnesota. It hears civil case appeals from the Court of Appeals.

*Some of the courts in the Minnesota 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 20 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

Minnesota courts recognize the effectiveness of ADR as a tool for settling conflicts. In response, the courts provide parties and their attorneys, if represented, with ADR information when they file a civil case. The parties must consider whether to use ADR to help resolve the dispute.

Rule 114 of the Minnesota General Rules of Practice describes the procedures for deciding whether to use ADR. The Rule mandates the court provides parties with information on ADR. Parties are required to discuss the use of ADR and address this issue in the informational statement filed with the court. If the parties are unable to make a decision on the use of an ADR process or a neutral, the court may order the parties to any number of ADR alternatives. This does not mean parties are required to settle their differences through ADR. They are required, however, to at least discuss their differences with the neutral and attempt to resolve their differences prior to a trial.

Arbitration

A forum in which each party and its counsel present its position before a neutral third party, who renders a specific award. If the parties stipulate in advance, the award is binding and is enforceable in the same manner as any contractual obligation. If the parties do not stipulate that the award is binding, the award is not binding and a request for trial de novo (trial lawyer) may be made.

Consensual Special Magistrate

A forum in which a dispute is presented to a neutral third party in the same manner as a civil lawsuit is presented to a judge. This process is binding and includes the right of appeal.

Moderated Settlement Conference

A forum in which each party and their counsel present their position before a panel of neutral third parties. The panel may issue a non-binding advisory opinion regarding liability, damages, or both.

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 60 days after the entry of the final judgment.

Recovery

A judgment rendered in Minnesota is valid for 10 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 Minnesota. Should you have a question/concern specific to Minnesota law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Minnesota.