Pre-Trial Motions in DC Injury Cases

A pre-trial motion is a motion filed by either side that is designed to flush out any outstanding issues before the trial begins. A DC injury lawyer files a pre-trial motion in order for the court to consider a ruling upon the issues prior to the start of the trial. The outcome of the motion may determine how the case is tried, whether there is any limitation as to which issues are presented to the jury or damages that may be awarded.

Likewise, if there is a pre-trial motion regarding some material piece of evidence, then once the court makes a ruling on that motion before the trial begins, the party can alter the evidence presented in a trial based upon the court’s rulings.

Types of Motions

There are many types of motion that occur prior to trial that can be filed in DC. Some of the motions involve legal defenses, such as a statute of limitations. Other pre-trial motions may deal with the admission of certain pieces of evidence and things of that nature. The following are a few examples:

  • Motion to Dismiss: A motion to dismiss is a pre-trial motion that is typically filed by the defense immediately after a complaint is filed, which challenges the allegations in the complaint. This means that the motion to dismiss will consider only the allegations contained in the complaint and no other outside documents, such as an affidavit or deposition testimony from a witness or party. If passed, then the complaint will then be dismissed and a trial will never happen.
  • Personal Jurisdiction: A motion filed challenging the personal jurisdiction of the claim is filed when the circumstances of the case warrant such a motion or when a party believes that the court, in which the case is filed, does not have personal jurisdiction over the claim.
  • Improper Venue: Venue is an issue that comes up from time to time due to the fact that the rules governing the selection of venue are based upon various circumstances. Again, the defense, meaning not the injured person, may file a motion challenging venue based upon issues that are unique to that individual case.
  • Failure to State a Claim: Failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is a defense that is asserted by the defense in the case. It challenges the allegations of the complaint and, assuming all allegations are true, asserts the plaintiff cannot state a claim upon which relief may be granted based upon a legal defense available to the defendant.

Summary Judgment Motion  

A summary judgment motion is a pre-trial motion much like a motion to dismiss, but it is filed at the close of discovery. This means that both parties have had a full and fair opportunity to collect as much information as necessary to investigate the claim, and then either party believes that he or she is entitled to judgment as a matter of law based upon all information collected.

It will be filed for a couple of different reasons. A defendant may file a motion for summary judgment in order to exonerate him or her from the claim brought by the plaintiff. The plaintiff may file the motion in order to force the court to make a determination on a particular issue, such as liability, as a matter of law, before the trial begins.

Motion for Default Judgment

A motion for default judgment is a motion filed pre-trail by the plaintiff when the defendant has failed to answer the plaintiff in the time prescribed by the court’s rules.

This is filed in order for the court to rule on the issue of liability. However, the personal injury context, a motion for default is very rarely filed because if the defendant failed to notify his or her insurance company of the claim and a default is entered, then the insurance company can deny coverage for the claim. Therefore, no payment will be received by the injured person from the at-fault party’s insurance company.

This could potentially impact the personal injury case in a beneficial way if the default is entered and the issues concerning liability are being conceded. However, it can also afford the at-fault party’s insurance company the opportunity to deny coverage for the claim, which would adversely affect the injured person’s claim by eliminating the resources to pay the claim. Therefore, this issue is often evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Sua Sponte Motion

Sua sponte means that no party has asked for the relief, but instead the court has acted  on its own or instantaneously. This is done in the District of Columbia often times because civil claims are filed electronically. Therefore, the  clerk’s office will automatically calendar certain events and take the next step, based solely upon the court’s rules without discretion by the parties.