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Understanding a Lawsuit News Flow for Optimum Communications Strategy

By James F. Haggerty and Thom Weidlich for PRNews

A big challenge to handling media relations around a lawsuit is understanding the rise and fall of media interest as the litigation drags on (as it typically does).

One way to think about it is to keep track of standard mileposts in litigation that will be most newsworthy to a reporter. It helps for non-lawyers to have a grasp of civil procedure: complaint, motion to dismiss, discovery, motion for summary judgment, trial and verdict.

To better understand where the “media moments” are in a particular piece of litigation—and best communications practices—below is a short description of the various stages.

Complaint, Answer, Countersuit
The filing of a complaint usually sets the media in motion, particularly in litigation relating to a high-profile issue or dispute. If you’re the defendant, unfortunately, the original story may be heavy on accusations from the plaintiff’s complaint, with only a short window of time for you to provide your response.

That’s why, if you know a lawsuit is brewing, it makes sense to work on your media statement about the potential filing ahead of time to get more play in the first story.

The more prepared you are before a lawsuit is filed, the faster you can get the right response in the hands of a reporter. It can often mean the difference between a response that appears in paragraph three and one that’s buried toward the end of a negative article.

The answer to a lawsuit, which a defendant is required to file shortly after the original complaint, isn’t usually newsworthy unless it comes with a countersuit—an entirely new lawsuit filed by the defendant against the plaintiff in response to the original complaint.

Media tend to love countersuits, which give them a whole new set of facts and allegations to write about. As a strategic move, therefore, a well-orchestrated countersuit might be considered—not just as a legal maneuver but as a way to reframe the “storyline” around the litigation and regain at least some of your control over the public debate.

For more, click here.

Free Stock photos by Vecteezy

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