Ohio State Court System

  • Municipal and County Courts: Municipal and County Courts hear civil cases with an amount in dispute that does not exceed $15,000.
  • Courts of Common Pleas: The court of common pleas is the trial level court in Ohio, and the General Division has jurisdiction over civil cases with an amount in controversy of over $15,000.
  • Court of Appeals:The Court of Appeals is the court of general appellate jurisdiction. It hears all cases appealed from the municipal and county courts, and the courts of common pleas.
  • Supreme Court of Ohio: The Supreme Court is the highest court in the state of Ohio. It is the court of last resort, and most cases come from appeals from the courts of appeals.

*Some of the courts in the Ohio 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 28 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

In Ohio, Alternative Dispute Resolution is usually a pretrial activity. ADR refers to a number of methods or techniques used to settle conflict which include:

  • Negotiation
  • Mediation
  • Arbitration
  • Mini-trials
  • Summary jury trials
  • Mediation is one method which is often used by the courts. In mediation, the mediator guides the parties through the contested issues. The mediator is a facilitator and not a judge. The mediator will attempt to maintain a calm, non-threatening environment which promotes the realistic evaluation of both sides of a conflict and allows the parties to develop a reasonable solution to the conflict.

    Some Ohio courts use mediation during the pretrial process to resolve pending cases. Some courts also have pre-filing mediation programs to resolve cases before they are filed. Further, some courts set aside a specific period of time each year where certain kinds of civil cases are set for mediation before volunteer mediators.

    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 within 30 days after the entry of the final judgment.

    Recovery

    The statute of limitations for actions on domestic judgments is 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 Ohio. Should you have a question/concern specific to Ohio law, please contact an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Ohio.