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How Courts Treat Silence in Response to Motions

Once a California personal injury lawsuit is initiated, it is common for each party to exchange one or more motions during the discovery and pretrial phase. These motions may request the other party produce certain evidence, may seek a final ruling on the merits of the suit and rights of the parties, and/or ask the court to establish certain rules governing the presentation of evidence at trial. As a recent occurrence from East St. Louis illustrates, it is important that these motions are properly responded to in a timely manner.

Facts of Ruark Dispute

The East St. Louis case involves a lawsuit brought by a Union Pacific worker against his employer. Before trial, Union Pacific filed a motion in limine that asked the court to prevent the plaintiff from offering opinions on the reason the rail drill that injured him failed. (A motion in limine is a motion requesting the court to make a pre-trial ruling that will affect what evidence may be presented at trial or how such evidence should be presented.) Rather than responding to the motion in a timely manner, Ruark failed to respond at all. As a result, the court treated Ruark’s failure to reply as an acceptance of and agreement to Union Pacific’s motion. The court therefore granted Union Pacific’s motion in limine and ordered that Ruark’s testimony be limited.

Dramatic Consequences for Failing to Respond

In Ruark’s case, a failure to respond merely limited the testimony he could present at trial. Other scenarios could have much more serious consequences. For example, suppose the opposing party in your personal injury lawsuit files a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment. Suppose further that for one reason or another you fail to timely file a response to the party’s motion. A court could (and probably would) consider your failure to file a response as your tacit agreement with the other party’s motion. This could result in the dismissal of your claim.

How to Avoid Failing to Reply to Motions

One of the surest ways to avoid to failing to respond to a motion filed by the opposing party in your personal injury case is to retain the services of an experienced attorney. Your California personal injury attorney will help ensure that motions and pleadings filed by the opposing party are replied to. If you choose to represent yourself, it is important that you maintain a calendaring system so that you know when you must respond to the opposing party’s filings.

Heiting & Irwin is skilled and knowledgeable, capable of representing injury victims who were injured under all sorts of circumstances. When you retain Heiting & Irwin, you can rest assured that the opposing party’s motions and filings will be timely and professionally responded to in order to protect your rights and maximize the chances that your lawsuit will be successful. Call Heiting & Irwin today at (951) 682-6400, or use the firm’s online contact form to reach out to the firm.

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