A visit to a court of law is an experience which is important for any individual to understand the basic steps of case trials as well as the real circumstances that surround day to day events of court. This is because a legal system for any country is important in maintenance of law and order while ensuring justice to all. There are criminal and civil courts which settle criminal and civil cases respectively (Rules of Civil Court Procedures). However, in this paper we are examining the civil courts.
When an individual enters a civil court it is expected that they behave in a manner that shows respect to the institution and officials in the court (How to behave during a Civil Trial). The court environment is impressing out of well groomed individuals and officials who were in the court for various reasons. There was a judge, court clerks, court reporters, bailiff of the court (Gaines & Miller 205) and attorneys representing both the plaintiff and the defendant and the general public since the proceedings were not restricted. There is a defined order followed in all the entire court process which is respected by all parties. The general atmosphere in a court is so quiet so as to enable all proceedings to be clearly understood without any problem. There is a sense of professionalism which dictates the way the staff and other people conduct themselves is admirable. It feels safe when you are in a court of law and that the law of the land is so powerful so as to be respected by all.
A civil action concerns a lawsuit between companies and individuals. The parties involved in a civil case are the plaintiff who has been wronged and the defendant who is the wrongdoer. Thus the plaintiff is suing the defendant of an alleged wrong done against him. The court can only begin a civil case if the plaintiff had filed summons and complaint with the court clerk (How civil court works). The serving of each defendant with a copy of pleadings should have been done and the answer filed accordingly by the defendant. Failure to answer will lead the judge to rule against the defendant (Basic Trial Procedure).
However, if the defendant answers to the pleading, the case enters discovery process where all information is disclosed. After disclosure, what follows is a settlement process where defendant makes an offer to the plaintiff s as to settle the case and if it is accepted the case is dismissed. This is advantageous as it saves time and money for both parties (Stages in civil proceedings). In the case where no agreement is reached, the trial phase is entered where it is done at the court. This is where the court proceedings begin for a civil case.
Lewis v. South San Francisco Yellow Cab
In this case the Plaintiff used to travel with defendant Cab Company. Late one evening she was driven home with a driver she knew and with a sailor who had requested to travel in the cab with her. The sailor began kissing her against her disapproval. The cab driver ignored her request to take her home, and took her somewhere else, and then told her to disembark with the sailor. Plaintiff, worried of the sailor, disembarked from the car and ran, falling in a ditch and breaking her foot. She sued the cab company for injury to her foot as a proximate cause of her fear of the taxi driver (Civil Procedure Cases).
The trial commenced after selection of appropriate jurors who do not have personal interest in the case (Basic Trial Procedure). The trial begins with the opening statements from the attorneys from both sides. The statement of the party with a burden of proof began first (How Courts Work). At this point no evidence is produced but rather outline of what they expect to proof in the trial process. The plaintiff’s attorney wanting to proof that his client suffered an injury out of fear of the driver whereas the defendant’s attorney arguing that there was no such fear of the driver which caused the injury.
The trial then enters the stage of presentation of evidence and testimony of witnesses. The plaintiff’s attorney calls witnesses to testify. The defendant will then be allowed to cross examine the witness by asking questions (Basic Trial Procedure). In our case the witness to the incident was the sailor and the driver who narrated the situation as it happened. However, the defendant’s attorney did not cross examine them.
At this stage, any material evidence was brought before the court of law. If an attorney objected a question being asked to the witness, they presented their objection to judge who could sustain or overrule the objection by applying the law (Basic Trial Procedure). There were questions that were objected by the judge on the ground of legal technicality. In our case there was an objection by defendants attorney of the driver being asked the motive of driving the car somewhere else and ignoring the plaintiff. It was overruled because the case was filed on the ground fear of the driver and not the driver’s negligence.
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After each side had presenting their cases to their own satisfaction, they “rested” their cases. The closing arguments were then presented by the attorneys of both sides. These were their summarized evidence that they presented during the trial and each side attempted to persuade the jury to rule in favor of the client they represent. The plaintiff’s attorney had the opportunity to close the trial since the burden of proof is on their side (Basic Trial Procedure). The court required the plaintiff attorney to discharge the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt that his client suffered an injury due to the proximity of fear of the company’s driver.
The attorneys leave the opportunity to the judge who reads instructions of law to the jury, states all the decisions that the jury must make. They are also reminded of laws governing a specific trial and that their decision should be as the law states. It is also important to note that the judge reminds them that they are undertaking a sworn duty (Basic Trial Procedure). The jury then leaves to a private room where they deliberate on the case so as to arrive at the verdict.
The jury would appoint a leader who ensures that deliberations regarding the trial were conducted in a sensible and organized manner. The leader ensures that all the issues raised during the trial were put into consideration and fairly discussed. Each jury would be given a fair chance to present their opinions and all opinions are written down. The twelve-person jury would be required to make a ruling in favor of either parties unanimously or sometimes by majority. In a situation where the jury does not find a verdict, the case may be dismissed or started over again from the point of jury appointment (Basic Trial Procedure).
However, in our case the jury arrived at a verdict and signed the form with notification to the bailiff. The court clerk read the verdict aloud that there was a “non-suit” since the alleged facts does not support the claim. The plaintiff could have sued the Cab Company for the driver's failing to keep her safe from the sailor as a common carrier has a duty to do, but not out of fear of the driver attacking her, since she did not fear that. Plaintiff did not amend her complaint. Any defendant is entitled to a “non-suit” if there is a "material difference", even if that may have been corrected by an adjustment by the plaintiff (Civil Procedure Cases). There was negligence on the part of plaintiff in considering the cause of injury in which the defendant used to its advantage.
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Thereafter, the judge brought court proceedings brought to an end. That is when I learned of importance of any plaintiff to prepare complaints that could stand the court process because they had neglected to consider the proximity clause that was directly linked to the evidence. When the jury passed its verdict that there was no case to be answered, I was of the opinion that it was not fair. However, after considering their reasons I agreed on their ruling noting that the rule of law has to be well understood so as to benefit your course.