Members from 12 countries enjoy Poland’s hospitality in Krakow

Galexy International can look back on a successful and truly international 22nd annual conference. Early July, member firms from Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey enjoyed the old world charm of Krakow. The law Firm of Attorney Sebastian Koczur hosted the event.

August 1, 2013 - For the most part, the two-day session took place in the Michał Bobrzyński Conference Room at Collegium Maius of the Jagiellonian University, where the attending members were greeted by Attorney Carl Luttikhuis from the Netherlands, President of Galexy International. The first discussion panel focused on the international cooperation of Galexy International, admission of new members and the annual report on the Organisation's activities. In addition, a possible extension of the scope of activities of Galexy International – such as the establishment of an international arbitration court at the organisation – were discussed. A paper on the subject was presented by Łucja Kobroń, attorney trainee, a LL.D student at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University. Next, Attorney Cagatay Yilmaz, LL.M., representing Turkey within Galexy International, discussed the current political and legal situation in Turkey.

Prof. Andrzej ŚwiątkowskiThe first day of the Conference was honoured with the presence of a long-standing attorney at law, Prof. Andrzej Świątkowski, LL.D, who delivered a lecture on the right of employees and employers to collective action in cases of conflicts of interest, pursuant to Article 6.4 of the European Social Charter of 1961. Professor Świątkowski raised the issue of ratification of the said Article by Poland as well as other European countries. An important matter addressed was the institution of the right to strike and lockout.

 

On the second day, a discussion on the internal operation of the Organisation was initiated by German Attorney Tobias Vels, Vice President of Galexy. Changes in the by-laws of Galexy International, as proposed by Attorney Yoram Samuel from Israel, were debated. Other subjects were the budget approval and the venue for the next Annual Conference: the beautiful city of Athens.The official part of the Conference ended with an overview of the legal system in Poland presented by Attorney Sebastian Koczur, LL.D, who familiarised the participants with the basic institutions of Polish law in specific fields, highlighted the differences and indicated similarities between national laws of Galexy International member countries.

 

The conference programme featured cultural events as well; the participants had an opportunity to learn about the history of the Jagiellonian University, they visited the Wawel Castle and the Salt Mine in Wieliczka. The last day of the Conference culminated with a ceremonial dinner held at Tomaszowice Manor House at which the attending members thanked Sebastian Koczur, LL.D, for organising this year's event. They expressed their hope for further growth of Galexy International; the advancement of cooperation between its members; and last but not least, the expansion into new countries, also through admitting new members.

Photo: (f.l.t.r.) Steering Committee members Cagatay Yilmaz, Elina Paraskevopoulou and Carl Luttikhuis.

 

Attorney Karolina Stachura & Thiemo Burger

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Case studies

  • Buying and Selling Real Estate in the United States for Foreign Investors

    By: Carl-Christian Thier, Esquire

    According to the National Association of Realtors, international home buyers purchased $104 billion in United States real estate for the period of April 2014 to March 2016. This number is up from the previous year’s $92 billion, and $68 billion from the year before, reflecting an ever-expanding world market. The top five countries investing in United States real estate are Canada, China, Mexico, India, and the United Kingdom. These countries accounted for over one half of the properties purchased in 2014 to 2015 by foreign investors, and most foreign investors are purchasing property in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Steadily increasing property values, favorable exchange rates, and demand for rental properties make United States property investment tempting for foreign investors.

    Foreign Nationals are allowed to purchase and own real estate in the United States. As can LLCs, corporations, and partnerships. When purchasing real estate in the United States, there are very few differences between a foreign buyer and a buyer who is a United States citizen.

    Real estate purchases in the United States vary by location, since each state in the United States has its own set of rules regarding the purchase of real estate. Some of these rules and regulations affect items such as the type of contract used, the method of closing the sale, and the duties and titles of individuals involved in the sale process. In the United States, real estate listing information is shared by agents to promote transparency, unlike the process in many other countries where realtors or agents may have exclusive information regarding properties for sale. In the United States, sales commissions are paid by the seller, rather than the buyer. Further, United States Real Estate Agents must be licensed.

    The purchasing process itself in the United States is fairly straightforward but can vary depending on unique factors of each sale. Generally, the buyer will make an offer, and write up a contract, called a “purchase offer.” Writing up a legally binding real estate contract early in the process proves to the Seller that the Buyer is committed to moving forward. Next, there is a disclosure review, including preliminary title report, city reports, and local documents. Then, an appraisal on the property is conducted, along with any necessary or elected inspections. The loan approval or commitment is generally secured thereafter, and once these elements have each been satisfied, the real estate closing is conducted to conclude the deal.

    Closing costs can be negotiated in almost every real estate transaction in the United States. Often, there are guidelines as to which fees and costs each party pays, but a motivated seller may occasionally offer to pay more fees to find a buyer more quickly. For example, in Florida, the Buyer typically pays for: (1) taxes and recording fees on notes and mortgages; (2) recording fees for deed and financing statement; (3) survey; (4) lender’s title policy and endorsements; (5) HOA or Condominium Association application and transfer fees; (6) loan expenses; (7) appraisal fees; (8) Buyer’s inspections; (9) Buyer’s attorneys’ fees; and (10) all property-related insurance. Similarly, in Florida, a Seller typically pays for: (1) documentary stamp taxes and surtaxes; (2) owner’s policy and changes; (3) title search charges; (4) municipal lien search; (5) HOA or Condominium Association estoppel fees; (6) recording and other fees needed to cure title; (7) Seller’s attorneys’ fees; and (8) sales commissions. These closing costs and fees can be negotiated and the parties can agree as to which party will pay what fees and costs in the initial contract.

    Beyond the basics of property acquisition in the United States, there are special considerations that foreign investors should be aware of prior to purchasing real estate. Many foreign investors question whether they need to be in the United States to close on a real estate transaction. Fortunately, at the “closing” of the real estate transaction, when the property’s title is transferred to the new owner, the new owner does not need to be present in the United States. Foreign Nationals investing in United States real estate can appoint a representative and sign a Power of Attorney, so that the representative will have the right to close the deal on behalf of the new owner. This is a convenient way for foreign investors to purchase real estate in the United States without having to travel to the location of the property for closing. Another option is a “mail away closing” which involves the closing documents being mailed for signature in front of a notary public. However, a foreign investor may need to sign papers at a U.S. Consulate or a U.S. Embassy in order to obtain a U.S. Notary Public stamp.

    Although a vast majority of sales of United States property to foreign investors is completed in cash without financing, banks are willing to mortgage United States property to foreign investors. Many qualified foreign investors can obtain financing with a thirty percent down payment.

    Another consideration for foreign investors involves the likelihood of not needing to pay income taxes on any net rental income for the first ten to fifteen years of property ownership. Mortgage interest, common charges, property taxes, depreciation, insurance, and amortization of closing costs are all deductions against income in these first years of property ownership. When the real estate becomes profitable, some income may be offset by the prior year’s negative income. This offset, called “tax loss carry forward,” results in no income taxes needing to be paid for several years. Any foreign investor should consult with a tax specialist for their home country when considering a purchase of United States real estate. Overall tax liability varies from country to country, and a foreign investor’s tax liability may be different than that of a United States citizen depending on a variety of factors. A local tax attorney who is familiar with a foreign investor’s home country’s tax treaty with the United States, if one exists, would be able to guide a foreign investor through the tax implications of purchasing United States real estate.

    Foreign investors may also consider deferment of United States capital gains taxes. Capital gains result when the selling price of real property is higher than the purchase price. Capital gains are generally subject to a 15% tax for individuals and a 35% tax for corporations. Under Section 1031 of the IRS code, foreign investors can defer capital gains taxes. Section 1031 lays out a set of complex and demanding rules which must be followed exactly, otherwise the transaction will be disqualified for deferral. If successful, however, the foreign investor may sell property without incurring any immediate tax liability. An attorney familiar with Section 1031 may help guide this process.

    KEYWORDS: realtor, realtors, real estate, foreign national, purchase, home, sell, invest, investor, tax, tax liability, taxes, own real estate, foreigner, foreign investor, tax treaty, deferment, capital gains taxes, IRS, internal revenue service, foreign taxes, buy real estate, attorney, attorneys, international attorneys, international real estate, closing on property, closing on house, financing, mortgage, lender, closing costs, property investment, foreign property, foreign property investment, international property, international investment

  • Walkthrough of a Civil Lawsuit

    Courtesy of Urban Thier & Federer, P.A., International Law Firm

    Unlike criminal lawsuits, where the government seeks to impose penalties on individuals for violating laws, a civil lawsuit acts to resolve matters between two individual parties. Individuals and corporations alike can participate in civil lawsuits, and may sue or be sued when another party has wronged or “injured” them. In civil cases, an injury can range from property damage to monetary loss to a breach of contract or covenant and more. When a party believes that it has been injured it may bring a lawsuit as a plaintiff, against the party who they believe caused the injury, the defendant.

    The procedure for bringing a civil action, regardless of where it commences, follows the same basic procedure, which is outlined in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. State Rules of Civil Procedure for each individual state control when a lawsuit is brought in state court rather than federal court, but state rules often follow federal rules closely with a few minor exceptions.

    Complaint and Answer: Initial Pleadings

    A lawsuit begins when a document called a complaint is filed with the clerk of the court by the plaintiff. A complaint states the cause of action, or why the lawsuit is being brought, and asks for damages or other relief from a defendant who the plaintiff believes caused the injury. The complaint states the facts and legal arguments supporting the plaintiff’s claim that an injury occurred and that the defendant is liable. Once the complaint is filed, the clerk of the court issues a summons. This summons provides the defendant with notice of the lawsuit and a copy of the complaint. For some cases, the plaintiff must serve the defendant using a process server or other uninterested third party to ensure that the defendant has knowledge of the lawsuit.

    Once a defendant has been served with the complaint, he or she has 21 days to respond. This response is in the form of an answer, which admits or denies the allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint and lets the court know what facts the defendant agrees with and those with which he or she does not agree. Once both of these documents have been filed, the attorneys for each side will consider the appropriate next steps based on the contents of both the complaint and the answer.

    Early Motions

    Often, attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant will consider using appropriate motions in order to move forward with a civil action. A motion is a pleading filed in a case which requests an action or order by the court. If, for example, the complaint does not state an injury, or does not provide facts which lead a reasonable person to believe that the defendant is responsible, the defendant may file a motion to dismiss the action. The defendant may file a motion to dismiss the case even before answering a complaint.

    If the defendant does not file an answer, or if the answer does not contest the claims of the plaintiff that the defendant is liable for the injuries alleged, the plaintiff may file a motion for summary judgment, where the court decides the case without it ever going to trial. If these early motions are denied by the court or if the attorneys for either side decide not to file such motions, the lawsuit will proceed.

    Discovery and Pre-Trial

    In order to obtain a complete picture of each party’s case before trial, the parties will complete discovery. During discovery, documents and information are exchanged which relate to the claims brought forth in the complaint, or which could reasonably lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. The most common forms of discovery are: (1) Depositions; (2) Interrogatories; (3) Requests for Production; and (4) Requests for Admission.

    Depositions are sworn, out-of-court statements by a party or witness which may be used as testimony. These usually take place with attorneys for each side asking questions of the deponent, while a court reporter transcribes the event. Depositions may be used at trial if the deponent is unavailable, or they may be used to impeach a party when their in-court answer is not consistent with the prior testimony.

    Interrogatories are similar to depositions in that they follow a question-and-answer format which are served on one party by another. The number of interrogatories are set by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure at 25 written interrogatories, including discrete subparts. This is to ensure that parties do not overly burden each other with extensive discovery, and acts to keep interrogatories relevant and focused on the claims brought forth in the initial complaint.

    Requests for Production to a party allow the opposing party to inspect, copy, test or sample items which are in the responding party’s possession, custody or control. Designated documents, electronically stored information, or tangible items that are relevant to the instant action are all eligible for these discovery requests. These requests must describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected, and must specify a reasonable time and place for inspection, if applicable. With most files now being electronically stored, requests for production are generally much more manageable than they were several years ago. Requests for Production allow each party to have a complete picture of all relevant information regarding the civil lawsuit.

    Requests for Admissions allow a party to request that another party “admit for the purposes of the pending action … the truth of any matters within the scope” of discovery. When drafted with particularity and timed well, requests for admissions are an effective way to expedite the legal process by establishing strengths and weaknesses in each party’s case. These admissions may be used to establish a basis for summary judgment, or may be used in settlement negotiations or referenced in cross-examination at trial.

    As the process of discovery proceeds and the case moves closer to trial, the parties will have pre-trial conferences with the judge. These conferences allow the parties to inform the judge as to how discovery is proceeding, and to narrow the issues for trial if discovery provides a basis to resolve certain issues before trial. During the pre-trial phase, attorneys for either side may request that the judge exclude specific witnesses, evidence, or legal arguments if they are not proper. These requests are granted or denied by the court to continue to narrow the scope of what is argued at trial. Sometimes, these pre-trial rulings will prompt a party to try to settle rather than take the case to trial.

    Trial and Judgment

    Once at trial, the plaintiff presents evidence first to a finder of fact. In jury cases, the finders of fact are the jury, and in non-jury cases, the finders of fact are comprised of one or more judges. After the plaintiff presents evidence, the defense has a chance to present their case. The plaintiff has the burden of proving his case and each element therein, generally by a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. This requires that it is more likely than not that the claims of the plaintiff are true. This is a lower standard than the burden of proof at a criminal trial, of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If either party has an issue with how the trial is conducted, they may object in writing to preserve an objection for appeal.

    After both sides present their cases, the finder(s) of fact decide as to the issue of liability. If the finder(s) of fact find for the defendant, then the case is over, and the defendant is released from liability. The judge will then enter an order which releases defendant from liability for the plaintiff’s claims. If the finder(s) of fact find for the plaintiff, judgment is entered in favor of the plaintiff. The court then awards either a legal or equitable remedy, or both, as the court deems just and proper. A legal remedy comes in the form of monetary damages which the defendant must pay to the plaintiff. Equitable remedies include positive or negative injunctions, which require or prohibit the defendant from doing or refraining from doing some act.

    Appeals and Enforcement of a Judgment

    If one or both parties are dissatisfied with the outcome of a trial and believe that the outcome was not legally appropriate, they may file an appeal. An appellate court will review the appeal and may dismiss it, hear and affirm the judgment, hear and reverse the judgment, or send it back to the trial court with additional instructions to correct errors that the appellate court has found. In larger or more complicated lawsuits, a case may go between a court of appeals and a trial court multiple times before a final resolution is reached.

    Enforcement of a judgment can be difficult in and of itself, but prevailing parties have several options available to them in order to collect on a judgment entered in their favor. The failure of a defendant to obey the final judgment is cause to find the defendant in contempt of court, and additional suits and penalties may be warranted for such contempt. A plaintiff may also obtain a court order to take property belonging to a defendant in order to satisfy the judgment, or may place a lien on the defendant’s property. Even if a defendant moves to a different state, a judgment may be enforceable against the defendant.

    Knowledgeable Attorneys

    While the foregoing provides a basic overview of a civil lawsuit, there are always individual factors which come into consideration depending on which motions are filed, what discovery is propounded, and the individual decisions of the attorneys and parties themselves. Controlling deadlines and extensions at each step in the process are outlined by the Federal or State Rules of Procedure, and meeting each deadline ensures that a case will proceed. Even if a plaintiff or defendant has a legitimate and compelling case, by failing to follow the correct procedure a case can be lost on procedural grounds alone. Similarly, each area of law such as contracts, torts, family law, or malpractice claims has its own facets, and a practicing attorney participating in any civil suit should have a working knowledge of civil procedure as well as of the specific area of law.

    Whether you have been served with a civil lawsuit or believe you may have a civil cause of action, it is highly recommended that you seek competent counsel. The attorneys at Urban Thier & Federer, P.A. have extensive trial and litigation experience to serve clients throughout the United States and abroad. Call today for a personalized consultation to discuss your situation from one of our experienced civil litigation attorneys.

    KEYWORDS: lawsuit, suit, civil case, civil suit, civil lawsuit, civil attorney, civil attorneys, procedure, civil procedure, complaint, answer, motion, pleading, summary judgment, motion to dismiss, enforcement, attorney, attorneys, discovery, requests for production, request to produce, interrogatory, interrogatories, request for admission, requests for admission, deposition, depositions, deponent, evidence, trial, jury, finder of fact, fact finder, judge, order, judgment, final judgment.

  • Litigation in the United States of America: Dispelling the Myths

    Litigation in the United States of America: Dispelling the Myths

    By: Ernest H. (Skip) Kohlmyer, III, Esq., LL.M.

    Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, also known as the “McDonald’s coffee case” and “the hot coffee lawsuit,” was a 1994 product liability lawsuit that became a flashpoint in the debate in the United States over tort reform. A New Mexico civil jury awarded $2.86 million to plaintiff Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman who suffered from third-degree burns in her pelvic region when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap after purchasing it from a McDonald’s restaurant. Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days while she underwent skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment. Liebeck’s attorneys argued that at 180-190 °F (82-88 °C), McDonald’s coffee was defective, and claimed that it was too hot and more likely to cause serious injury than coffee served at any other establishment. McDonald’s had refused several prior opportunities to settle for less than what the jury ultimately awarded: $160,000 to cover Liebeck’s medical expenses and compensatory damages, and $2.7 million in punitive damages. The trial judge reduced the final verdict to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided. The case was said by some to be an example of frivolous litigation; ABC News called the case “the poster child of excessive lawsuits,” while the legal scholar Jonathan Turley argued that the claim was “a meaningful and worthy lawsuit.”

    The burn incident itself was outlined as follows: On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman for Albuquerque, New Mexico, ordered a 49-cent cup of coffee from the drive-through window of a local McDonald’s restaurant. Liebeck was in the passenger’s seat of a 1989 Ford Probe owned by her grandson Chris, who did not have cup holders, and Chris parked the car so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. In the process, she spilled the entire cup of coffee on her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants, which absorbed the coffee and held it against her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks, and groin. Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin, and lesser burns over sixteen percent. She remained in the hospital for eight days while she underwent skin grafting. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds (9kg, nearly twenty percent of her bodyweight), reducing her bodyweight to 83 pounds (38kg). After the hospital stay, Liebeck needed care for three weeks, provided by her daughter. Liebeck suffered permanent disfigurement after the incident and was partially disabled for two years.

    There were several pre-trial issues which came into play: Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover her actual and anticipated expenses. Her past medical expenses were $10,500; her anticipated future medical expenses were approximately $2,500; and her daughter’s loss of income was approximately $5,000 for a total of approximately $18,000. Instead, the company offered only $800. When McDonald’s refused to raise its offer, Liebeck retained Texas attorney Reed Morgan. Attorney Morgan filed suit in New Mexico District Court accusing McDonald’s of “gross negligence” for selling coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured.” McDonald’s refused Attorney Morgan’s offer to settle for $90,000. Attorney Morgan offered to settle for $300,000, and a mediator suggested $225,000 just before trial, but McDonald’s refused these final pre-trial attempts to settle.

    The trial took place from August 8 to August 17, 1994, before New Mexico District Court Judge Robert H. Scott. During this case, Liebeck’s attorneys discovered that McDonald’s required franchisees to hold their coffee at 180-190 °F (82-88 °C). At 190 °F (88 °C), the coffee would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven seconds. Liebeck’s attorney argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140 °F (60 °C), and that a number of other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower temperature than McDonald’s. Liebeck’s lawyers presented the jury with evidence that 180 °F (82 °C) coffee like that which McDonald’s served may produce third-degree burns (where skin grafting is necessary) in about 12 to 15 seconds. Lowering the temperature to 160 °F (71 °C) would increase the time for the coffee to produce such a burn to 20 seconds. Liebeck’s attorneys argued that these extra seconds could provide adequate time to remove the coffee from exposed skin, thereby preventing many burns. McDonald’s claimed that the reason for serving such hot coffee in its drive-through windows was that those who purchased the coffee typically were commuters who wanted to drive a distance with the coffee, and that the high initial temperature would keep the coffee hot during the trip. However, the company’s own research showed that some customers intend to consume the coffee immediately, while driving.

    Other documents obtained from McDonald’s showed that from 1982 to 1992 the company had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald’s coffee to varying degrees of severity, and had settled claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000. McDonald’s quality control manager, Christopher Appleton, testified that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. He argued that all foods hotter than 130 °F (54 °C) constituted a burn hazard, and that restaurants had more pressing dangers to warn about. The plaintiffs argued that Appleton conceded that McDonald’s coffee would burn the mouth and throat if consumed when served.

    On August 18, 1994, a twelve-person jury reached its verdict. Applying the principles of comparative negligence, the jury found that McDonald’s was 80% responsible for the incident and that Liebeck was 20% at fault. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was neither large enough nor sufficient. They awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by 20% to $160,000. In addition, they awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The jurors apparently arrived at this figure from Morgan’s suggestion to penalize McDonald’s for one or two days’ worth of coffee revenues, which were about $1.35 million per day. The judge reduced punitive damages to $480,000, three times the compensatory amount, for a total of $640,000. The decision was appealed by both McDonald’s and Liebeck in December 1994, but the parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000.

    The procedure for litigation in the United States is complex, but with a skilled attorney the process can be navigated seamlessly on behalf of clients. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure control most larger personal injury lawsuits in the United States, and at its forefront is Rule 8, which outlines what must be included in a pleading that states a claim for relief, as well as defenses, admissions and denials when responding to an initial pleading. Rule 12 delves into how to present defenses, and outlines several defenses which a party may assert by motion, rather than responsive pleadings. If a court does not have jurisdiction, venue is improper, a defendant was not properly served, or the party filing the claim does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted, among other things, the defendant may assert an appropriate defense to avoid or correct further litigation.

    Once an action proceeds past the initial pleadings, the court will have a pretrial conference to expedite disposition of an action as well as establishing early and continuing control for case management, discouraging wasteful pretrial activities, improving the quality of the trial and facilitating settlement. The pretrial conference procedures fall under Rule 16 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    Often, when an action moves closer to trial, each party will take depositions of parties and witnesses in order to secure testimony in the event of an inconsistency or an individual’s unavailability at trial. A deposition being held in the United States must be taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths or a person appointed by the court, and depositions taken in a foreign country may be taken under an applicable treaty or convention, letter of request, on notice, or before a person commissioned by the court to administer any necessary oath and take testimony. Deposition procedures are outlined in Rule 28 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    Similar to depositions, interrogatories are a set of written questions that require answers, and are used as sworn testimony. Under Federal Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may serve up to 25 written interrogatories including sub-parts, and the interrogatories may relate to any matter that may be inquired into by the Rules. Often served with interrogatories, requests for production of documents similarly ask a party to produce documents which may be relevant to the action at bar and are governed by Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    Rule 56 outlines the procedures for a motion for summary judgment, which occurs when a party moves the court and shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A party may move for summary judgment on each claim or defense, or a part of a claim or defense. A party may file a motion for summary judgment at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery.

    One discovery has been completed and a date has been set for trial, a jury must be selected in the event of a jury trial, which procedures are outlined in Rule 47 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A court may permit the parties or their attorneys to examine prospective jurors and may do so itself, to ensure an impartial jury. The court may also allow preemptory challenges, where a party or its attorney can strike a potential juror without cause. Additional jurors may be stricken for cause in the event that they show bias or other unsuitability for a jury trial. Even during trial or deliberation, the court may excuse a juror for good cause.

    Rule 48 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure outlines the number of jurors allowed, as well as verdict and polling regulations. A jury must begin with at least 6 and no more than 12 members, and each juror must participate in the verdict unless they are excused. Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, the verdict must be unanimous and must be returned by a jury of at least 6 members. After a verdict is returned by the jurors but before the jury is discharged, the court must, on a party’s request or on its own, poll the jurors individually. If such a poll reveals a lack of unanimity or lack of assent by the number of jurors that the parties stipulated to, the court may direct the jury to deliberate further or may order a new trial. The procedures for granting a new trial are outlined in Rule 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A motion for a new trial must be filed no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment.

    In American courts, the presiding judge in a civil jury trial may also overrule the decision of a jury and reverse or amend their verdict. This practice is called a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, also called judgment non obstante veredicto.

    Further, if a judge rules that the damages granted by a jury in a civil case is excessive, they may lower or reduce the amount of damages awarded. Usually this occurs when the amount awarded exceeds the amount demanded or is otherwise deemed to be excessive.

    If after trial it is discovered that there was a mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect, or if newly discovered evidence exists that, with reasonable diligence, could not have been discovered in time to move for a new trial under Rule 59, or if there is fraud, the judgment is void or has been satisfied, released or discharged; or if there is any other reason to justify relief, a court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order or proceeding under Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

    There are many myths regarding litigation in the United States that arise around large verdicts such as the one in Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. It is often believed that a small injury such as a simple spilled coffee can lead to riches for those injured, and the scope of injury or realities of the litigation process are often overlooked. Civil litigation in the United States is very heavily based on procedural rules and standards, and verdicts are decided by an impartial jury which reflect the extent of a plaintiff’s damages and other factors, such as pain and suffering as well as medical bills, which may total hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even when such a large verdict is returned and advertised by media, judges have the ability to and often exercise the practice of “remittur” to reduce damages awarded by a jury. In this way, verdicts recovered by injured plaintiffs in the United States are often for much less than initially awarded, and justly compensate those who are severely injured by the actions of another.

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