A Trusted Law Firm For

Basic Stages Of A Typical Business Lawsuit

At Brick Business Law, P.A., our skilled litigation attorneys are well-versed in the processes involved in business disputes. Following is an overview of the various stages included in most business lawsuits.

If you and your business are facing litigation, contact us online or call us at 888-708-4250 to schedule a consultation.

Note – Timelines Vary:  The timeframe of various parts of a lawsuit depends heavily on the parties and attorneys, how fast they want to act, and how complex the issues are.  Especially when negotiations to resolve the lawsuit are in progress, the lawsuit may proceed more slowly.  The stages often overlap with each other.

Nearly every business lawsuit in Florida state or federal court covers the following stages:

    1. Initial Pleadings, Service, and Response;
    2. Discovery;
    3. Dispositive Motions;
    4. Alternative Dispute Resolution;
    5. Trial;
    6. Post-Judgment Discovery and/or Appeal.


  • Initial Complaint. The Plaintiff’s Complaint is the statement of the case and the claims by the Plaintiff(s) against the Defendant(s);
  • Summons. The Court issues summons(es), which are the notices to the Defendant(s) that they are being sued and giving the date by which the Defendant must respond to the lawsuit (1-3 days);
  • Service of process. Delivering the Summons and Complaint to the Defendant(s) (1-120 days).  Simply mailing the documents to the Defendant(s) is not enough.  Florida Statutes Chapter 48 lay out the steps that must be taken for service of process to be effected.
  • Defendant’s Response. In Florida state courts, the Defendant(s) must file and serve their response to the Complaint within 20 calendar days of the date they were served.  This response may be an Answer and Affirmative Defenses or a Motion (often a Motion to Dismiss).
    • Use them or lose them: Defenses waived if not raised.  If a Defendant wants to make the following challenges to the case, it must do so in its initial response to the Complaint, otherwise, they are deemed waived:
      • Lack of subject matter jurisdiction;
      • Lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant;
      • Improper venue;
      • Insufficiency of process;
      • Insufficiency of service of process;
      • Failure to state a cause of action;
      • Failure to join indispensable parties;
      • Motion for more definite statement;
  • Defendant’s Counterclaim/Third-Party Complaint. In some cases, a defendant may have a claim for relief of their own that is related to the existing complaint.  Against the plaintiff, this is called a counterclaim.  Against a third-party on a related issue, this is called a third-party complaint.
    • A counterclaim need not be formally served like an initial complaint, simply filed and delivered via the Florida e-filing portal and delivered via email.
    • A third-party complaint requires issuance of a summons against the new third-party defendant and service of process in the same manner as an initial complaint.
    • In either case, the counterclaim-defendant or third-party defendant has 20 days from the date of service to make a response of their own.

Note – Pleading/Motion Extensions:  At nearly every stage of a lawsuit, it is possible to receive extensions of time either from the other side or from the Court.  In Florida state court, it is generally permissible to simply agree informally with the other side regarding an extension, while in Florida federal court or business court, it is necessary to submit a motion for extension and proposed order for the court to enter.

This stage can last anywhere from 2-3 months to 6+ months, depending on how each defendant responds to the lawsuit, counterclaim, or third-party complaint. Motions to Dismiss, if granted, can add 2-3 months to the process because the court will almost always grant the plaintiff time to serve an Amended Complaint fixing whatever errors existed to justify the dismissal.


Discovery may begin the moment a lawsuit is filed, with the due dates for response varying depending on the timeframe of the lawsuit. There are generally two types of discovery in a standard business case: written discovery and depositions.

  • Written Discovery Requests. These include Requests for Production of Documents and Things, Requests for Admissions, and Interrogatories.  If the Defendant’s response to the lawsuit is not yet due, the deadline to respond to written discovery requests from the plaintiff is 45 days from the date of the requests are served.  If the Defendant has already responded to the lawsuit, the deadline is 30 days. 
  • Depositions. For businesses on either side of a lawsuit, the other side will often want to take the deposition of the business’s corporate representative.  The deposing party serves a list of “areas of inquiry” for the deposition, and the receiving party must identify one or more corporate representatives with sufficient knowledge to testify on those topics.  Or if there is a specific person within the opponent’s business known to have facts or knowledge, a fact deposition may be scheduled directed to that particular person.  The parties are expected to coordinate with each other to set mutually-agreed upon deposition dates and times. 
  • Non-Party Discovery. Often, a person or entity who is not a party to the lawsuit may nonetheless possess information or knowledge regarding the transactions and occurrence that are the subject of the suit.  Either side may serve a Notice of Production from Non-Party with a proposed subpoena listing the documents being sought from that non-party and/or a deposition desired.  The other side has 10 days from the date of service of the Notice to make objections before the subpoena is served on the non-party. 

Note – Discovery Extensions:  Extensions to respond to written discovery requests are granted as a matter of course in a lawsuit, especially a first extension of up to 30 days.

  • Motions to Compel Discovery. If a party served with discovery requests fails to respond timely or completely to the requests, the other side has the option of filing a Motion to Compel with the Court, asking the Court to order the delinquent party to serve full and complete responses within a short timeframe (usually 10-14 days).  Nearly every Florida jurisdiction requires a “good faith conference” between the two sides to discuss the delinquencies and attempt to resolve the issue without the need for Court intervention.
  • Especially if Motions to Compel become necessary, the discovery process can last anywhere from a few months to years.


  • Motions for Summary Judgment. The most common dispositive motion filed seeking a “shortcut” to avoid trial is the Motion for Summary Judgment.  The MSJ may be directed to all or part of either side’s case.  A party moving for summary judgment must show that the pleadings, depositions, interrogatory answers, affidavits, and admissions of record show there is no genuine issue of material fact and therefore the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  If the court agrees, it grants the motion and issues judgment in the moving party’s favor for the subject matter of the motion.  Those issues no longer need to be tried.  If the court disagrees, finding a dispute of fact, then the issues in the MSJ must be tried.

Note – Dispositive Motions are Optional.  Depending on the number and complexity of issues they cover, they can take months for filing of the motion, the other side’s response, and scheduling of a hearing before the court.  A party and their attorney must exercise judgment as to whether there are issues ripe for an MSJ or not. 

PHASE 4:  ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION (Mediation and/or Arbitration) 

These two common procedures may be scheduled at any time while a case is pending, and one or the other (sometimes both) is almost always ordered by the court prior to trial.

Additionally, informal settlement negotiations may also take place at any time while a case is pending on all or part of the issues in the case. Courts favor settlement, so will generally accommodate a request by one or both sides to hold mediation or arbitration.

  • Mediation (1-2 days). Non-binding, confidential meeting before a neutral mediator for counsel and a representative of each party authorized to negotiate and agree to settlements.
  • Arbitration (1-2 days or more). Usually non-binding unless a contract between the parties requires binding arbitration in place of court litigation.  This is a pseudo-trial, usually abbreviated, at the end of which the arbitrator(s) will make their decision.  The losing party may then move for a full trial before the court, but, if the trial court’s judgment is 25% less than that of the arbitrator, the moving party may be required to pay the other side’s attorneys’ fees and court costs for the trial.

The earlier in a case the parties seek to conduct mediation or arbitration, the more flexibility the court will allow on timing.

PHASE 5:  TRIAL (1-2 weeks) 

  • If all of the above don’t bring the case to an early end, eventually a trial is set. This is done by a notice that the case is “at issue” and ready for trial at any time 20 days after service of the last pleading (a defendant’s Answer & Affirmative Defenses).
  • The parties may request a particular trial timeframe or the court may choose one, depending on whether it is a jury or non-jury trial and how many days each side anticipates needing to present evidence and testimony.
  • The issues to be tried and the issues already decided are laid out in the Order Setting Trial and the Pretrial Conference Order, along with deadlines for lists of exhibits, witnesses, and pre-trial motions.
  • Many business lawsuits are decided in non-jury trials, and depending on the number of jury trials a judge has on their docket, this may lead to the non-jury trial being bumped to a later date, since jury trials are given priority.
  • Most judges have a calendar with a list of timeframes blocked out for trial every month, 1-2 weeks. Parties may request a particular trial period, but there are no guarantees.
  • At the end of presentation of evidence by both sides, the court may issue its verdict and judgment – sometimes on the final day of trial, sometimes later after taking the matter under advisement.

PHASE 6:  POST-JUDGMENT DISCOVERY AND/OR APPEAL (Optional – months to years)

  • The winning party who receives a money judgment from the court is entitled to discovery in aid of execution – detailed questionnaires regarding the losing party’s assets to determine how the judgment may be collected. These are due 45 days after the final judgment by the court.
  • If the losing party fails to comply with post-judgment discovery, they can be subject to proceedings for contempt of court.
  • Even after trial, it’s possible to reach a settlement for the time and manner of payment.
  • If one or both sides disagrees with the court’s verdict, an appeal may be possible. The appealing party must generally file a Notice of Appeal within 30 calendar days of the date of the trial court’s order rendering the decision the party wishes to appeal.  No extensions are available for this deadline.
  • Sometimes each side files a “cross-appeal” attacking different aspects of the court’s final judgment.

If you are interested in appeal, it is important to hire an attorney experienced in appellate law, as there are limitations on the types of issues that can be appealed from a trial. The briefing process can take anywhere from 90 days to 6 months depending on the issues being appealed and the number of extensions granted.

This information is provided by Jocelyn Smith, attorney at Brick Business Law, as an educational tool and does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our Florida law firm. To schedule a consultation with one of our experienced business lawyers, please call us at 888-708-4250 or use our contact form, below.