Litigation can be slow and how long it takes to go to court varies from case to case depending on the type of case, court calendar and other factors. This can often be frustrating to people who are experiencing litigation for the first time. The average civil case takes between 6-18 months from start to finish, but the timeline may be shorter or significantly longer depending on the nature of the case, the court’s calendar and the actions taken by the opposing parties.
Litigation Involves a Lot of Waiting
Once the case is filed and served on the Defendant, he or she will have between 21-30 days to respond to the petition. After a response is filed, the case moves into the discovery phase where written questions and requests for information are exchanged between the parties. The response time for these requests is generally thirty (30) days. Furthermore, when motions are filed, responses are not due for fourteen (14) to thirty (30) days depending on the types of motions filed. As a result of these timelines, there are often points in the litigation where we are waiting for responses from the other side. During these times, we work on preparing your case, researching case law and/or discussing possible settlements with the opposing counsel. Therefore, while it may feel like nothing is happening, your case is progressing through the litigation process.
Most of the Timing is Out of Your Lawyer’s Control
Many parties and factors can have an effect on the timeline for your legal matter. For example, if the Sheriff serves the wrong house or fails to complete service, the entire process is started over, and we have to request new paperwork from the court to be sent for service. When this happens, the case can be delayed a week or more depending on how long it takes to get the new paperwork and how long it takes the sheriff to re-attempt service. Similarly, defendants cannot prevail by ignoring legal service, but they can delay the process by requiring multiple attempts at service.
Additionally, the biggest factor when it comes to scheduling involves the availability of the Court’s calendar. For example, if we are trying to schedule a motion for a hearing and the first available date is sixty (60) days away, there is nothing that can be done to schedule the hearing any earlier. Almost every case has an unexpected delay that causes it to take a little longer than it would have otherwise.
Extensions are Common
For better or for worse, delays and extensions are a regular part of the legal system. In Kansas, a defendant may receive an automatic extension of fourteen (14) days for filing an answer without asking for permission from the court or opposing counsel. Similarly, while there are deadlines for responding to discovery, attorneys generally provide extensions when requested by opposing counsel. There are several reasons that extensions are provided, but the most important is that there is little recourse for late discovery responses. Judges are reluctant to rule in one party’s favor when the other does not respond to discovery. This is primarily because there is an inherent desire for cases to be resolved on their merits and not as the result of a technicality. As a result, these extensions are essentially “built-in” to the process for litigation.
The estimated timeline provided on our website and/or during your consultation take into account these factors and our adjusted based on our experiences in similar matters. With that being said, we are unable to guarantee any specific timeline due to the unpredictability of litigation and want to make sure to advise our clients that the “wheels of justice move slowly,” but that we are doing everything we can to keep your case moving forward.