Civil Law

Civil Lawsuits in Oregon

In a civil case, the plaintiff usually asks for money damages from the defendant, or asks the court to order the defendant to do something or not to do something from taking certain action. In a divorce case, the person filing the complaint may be asking the court to declare that the marriage is over, divide the marital property, determine child or spousal support, and resolve issues regarding custody and visitation of minor children. People are not sentenced to jail in a civil case unless, in a specific situation, a defendant willfully fails to obey a court order.

When a civil lawsuit is filed with the court, the plaintiff must have a “summons” served on the defendant. The “summons,” which also includes a copy of the complaint filed with the court, is delivered to the defendant. In Oregon, the defendant has 30 days to file a paper called an “answer” or “motion” with the court. If the defendant fails to file an answer or motion, the plaintiff may automatically win. Sometimes, the time period to respond to a summons is shorter. If you are served with a summons, read it carefully to determine what action must be taken and when. You should consult with an attorney for advice and assistance in filing an answer to the summons and complaint.

What About Small Claims Court?

Small claims court is a court in which disputes involving less than $3,500.00 are decided quickly and economically. The hearings are informal, and you do not need a lawyer. In fact, lawyers are allowed to represent people in small claims court only with special permission from the judge. Your lawyer can help you get ready for your small claims court case, organize your evidence for you, and advise you on what to say.

What is a Subpoena?

If you have received a legal document called a subpoena from a process server, it is important that you know what a subpoena is and what it means to you. A subpoena is an order, issued by the court, that requires you to appear in person at a certain place, date and time to testify as a witness about a particular case. You are required to appear at that place on the date and time listed on the subpoena. Should you fail to appear as directed by the subpoena, you could be found in contempt of court, which could lead to a jail term.

What Does It Mean To Be a Witness in a Lawsuit?

A witness in a lawsuit has a very important job. As a witness, you must tell the truth to your best ability. A witness who knowingly does not tell the truth is subject to criminal prosecution. The lawyer calling you as a witness or other lawyers involved in the case may discuss the case with you before the trial. There is nothing improper about this. It is the lawyer’s job to try to find out before the trial what you know about the case. He/she can explain courtroom procedures to you. However, you do not have to talk to the lawyer before the trial if you do not wish to.

What Happens on Jury Duty?

Oregon’s lawyers and judges have prepared the Handbook for Jurors. This handbook, produced by the Oregon State Bar, provides an overview of the jury selection and examination processes; the stages of a trial; evidence and objections to evidence; conduct of jurors in and out of the jury room; an explanation of different state and federal courts; and a glossary of legal terms of the court.