by Tim Herring — Whether you’re a business owner facing a significant dispute with a competing business or an individual with a contested real estate or probate matter, COVID-19 should not derail you from seeking legal advice and, when appropriate, sending a demand letter or commencing a lawsuit or other legal process.
Even though some courthouses are closed temporarily, parties are still able to commence lawsuits and file motions within those cases, and it makes sense for a party to bring a lawsuit now if the dispute is not likely to be resolved by agreement in the near term. Beginning on May 4, the courts will resume consideration of many motions where physical attendance of the parties in court is not required. As a practical matter, waiting to commence a lawsuit will only result in more delay later on when the courts resume full operation and others begin filing lawsuits and motions within those cases; filing a lawsuit now means an ultimate resolution sooner rather than later.
Much of the nuts-and-bolts work of litigation is done by the parties and their attorneys with minimal intervention by the Court up until the point of the pretrial settlement conference or the trial itself. For example, without court intervention, the parties can retain and disclose experts, conduct discovery through interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and remote depositions using video conference technology, and generally prepare cases for meaningful settlement discussions and trial. Moreover, many established mediators are utilizing videoconferencing, and anecdotal reports suggest that remote mediation is often effective. Ironically, the general slowdown may afford parties the opportunity to devote the proper attention to long-simmering disputes.