Complex Litigation

Complex litigation includes lawsuits involving complicated legal and factual issues, multiple parties and jurisdictions, and myriad claims and cross-claims. Byzantine legal proceedings such as these present challenges for clients and their lawyers. As a result, specialists in this type of legal practice should handle complex cases.

Many complex lawsuits turn on complicated factual situations as a result of unusual circumstances or involved relationships. For example, actions for damages resulting from the failure of an amusement park ride could include suits against the park, the ride's manufacturer, the operating or leasing company, the maintenance team or even the men in the first car who thought it would be fun to try to derail themselves. The case could be further complicated by lack of conclusive proof as to the cause of the accident or by cross-claims between the parties for indemnification.

Complex litigation can include class actions. Class actions allow a class representative to pursue a lawsuit on behalf of all other similarly situated persons. For example, if a patient received a pacemaker that didn't function correctly, he might sue the manufacturer; all the other individuals who also received the defective implant could form a "class" and pool their claims for damages against the manufacturer in one lawsuit. This class could become very large, and since class actions must follow special notification and certification procedures, this type of litigation can be very involved and difficult.

Some complex litigation results from the use of sophisticated or emerging legal theories. Federal regulatory systems can result in complicated legal proceedings. The environmental "Superfund" system led to substantial litigation involving multiple landowners to establish responsibility for cleaning up industrial properties. Lawyers may try a lawsuit based on a good-faith argument for a needed change in the law to meet the circumstances of their cases. For example, when the government changed land-use regulations so that many owners of undeveloped properties could not make any improvements to their land, attorneys made a novel argument that the new regulations destroyed the value of the land and that the government should therefore reimburse the landowners. This unique theory complicated the litigation but eventually became an accepted legal theory.

Complex litigation specialists must adapt their practices to meet the demands of their chosen field. Lawyers often use sophisticated software programs and computer systems in order to keep the claims, parties and deadlines straight. Complex litigation specialists may employ expert witnesses and investigators to assist them in building a case. Additionally, specially skilled support staff assist litigation firms in trying complex cases. Any party seeking complex litigation assistance should seek an expert in the area.

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