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As defense lawyers in St. Louis, Missouri, handling general liability, product liability, construction, trucking, and other complex litigation, we understand that responding to the plaintiff’s allegations in a lawsuit is one of the most critical aspects of any case. The initial response lays the groundwork for our defense strategy, and it’s crucial to approach this task with a combination of legal acumen, strategic foresight, and meticulous attention to procedural details.

Strategic Response Planning:

The first step in crafting a successful defense is to thoroughly understand the factual elements of the case. This involves a deep dive into the allegations, gathering relevant evidence, and identifying key witnesses. However, understanding the facts is only part of the equation. Equally important is the knowledge of procedural rules that govern the litigation process and the law which defines the essential elements of the claims pled. Our first mentor always taught us to get out the “Missouri Approved Instructions” book, which sets out the law the jury will hear at trial, and make sure that the elements are pled and provable with the facts in the case and as we know them. This includes reviewing the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure as well as the local rules of the specific court. Some consideration should be given to the nuanced preferences of the judge assigned to the case. Familiarity with these procedural intricacies can provide a significant advantage, allowing for the anticipation of potential challenges and the formulation of a robust defense strategy.

The Importance of Procedural Mastery:

In civil litigation, the procedural elements of a case can be as important as the substantive ones. Attorneys must ensure that the court is fully informed of what they are asking for and why they need it. This requires a comprehensive understanding of the rules of civil procedure, which can vary significantly between state and federal courts. For instance, the rules governing discovery, motions, and pleadings can differ, and knowing these distinctions is essential for effective case management.

Moreover, understanding the specific preferences of the presiding judge can be a game-changer. Some judges may have particular ways they prefer motions to be presented or specific formats for filings. Adhering to these preferences not only demonstrates respect for the court but can also avoid unnecessary disputes and delays.

Precision in Communication:

A critical component of any defense strategy is the precise phrasing of communications and requests to the court. Vague or poorly worded requests can lead to misunderstandings and adverse rulings. For example, in a recent case in the Eastern District of Missouri, defendants requested additional time “to answer or otherwise plead to Plaintiff’s Complaint.” After the extension was granted, they filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss along with their Answers and Affirmative Defenses to selected counts of the Complaint. However, the court dismissed the Motions to Dismiss, interpreting the request “to answer or otherwise plead” as a waiver of the right to file additional motions regarding the Complaint. This case underscores the importance of being specific and clear in all court communications to avoid inadvertently limiting one’s strategic options.

Preserving Rights and Arguments:

In litigation, it is essential to preserve all potential arguments and defenses. This means being vigilant about not waiving any rights unintentionally. For instance, certain defenses must be raised at specific stages of the litigation, or they may be deemed waived, such as venue issues or challenges. Similarly, objections to evidence or procedural matters must be timely made to preserve them for appeal. Being meticulous in this regard ensures that no aspect of the defense is forfeited due to procedural oversight.

Creating a Comprehensive Defense Strategy:

A successful defense strategy is multi-faceted, integrating both factual and procedural elements. It involves careful planning and coordination to ensure that every action taken supports the overall defense objectives. This includes:

  1. Early Case Assessment: Conducting a thorough early assessment to identify strengths and weaknesses, potential risks, and key issues that need to be addressed. This also includes the preparation of an anticipated budget through trial so business decisions can be made effectively. 
  2. Discovery Strategy: Formulating a discovery plan that targets critical information while minimizing unnecessary costs and delays.
  3. Motion Practice: Strategically using motions to narrow the issues, exclude inadmissible evidence, and potentially dismiss parts of the case before trial.
  4. Settlement Negotiations: If a case needs to be settled, it usually can be determined early. Engaging in settlement discussions when appropriate, with a clear understanding of the client’s goals and the case’s value. 


Effective defense litigation requires a blend of detailed factual investigation, procedural expertise, and strategic foresight. By meticulously planning our response to lawsuits, understanding the intricacies of court rules, and maintaining precise communication, we can defend and defeat claims, minimizing our clients’ risk and litigation exposure. These tactics, combined with our aggressive approach and thorough case evaluations, set us apart as effective litigators, capable of achieving favorable outcomes in complex litigation matters.

This comprehensive approach not only enhances our ability to defend our clients but also solidifies our reputation as a law firm that excels in civil litigation defense. Through continuous refinement of our strategies and a commitment to excellence, we remain at the forefront of the legal field, delivering exceptional results for our clients. If you have a matter you need help with, please contact any of our experienced litigators.

Written by: William Thomas and Cameron Jones

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