Staying of Civil Proceedings During Criminal Prosecution

As a plaintiff, you may encounter some legal difficulties if you’re litigating a civil case against a defendant who is also being prosecuted on related criminal charges.  Most plaintiffs, of course, would prefer to litigate the civil action as soon as possible and avoid the costs (time, money, and effort) of a delayed civil proceeding.  If you have a motor vehicle accident claim you’re ready to litigate, for example, it can be rather frustrating to have to wait until the disposition of the related criminal matter.   In both California state and federal courts, defendants may submit a motion to stay the civil proceeding (in other words, a motion to suspend or “pause” the civil action) to allow for the completion of the pending criminal matter without the difficulties imposed by parallel civil and criminal proceedings.  California courts generally grant motions to stay civil proceedings when the required conditions have been met.   If you believe that your civil claim may be delayed due to a related criminal matter, you’ll want to work with a California injury attorney who has experience prosecuting and defending criminal cases, and also litigating cases when parallel civil-criminal proceedings are involved.  To set up a free consultation with a skilled Los Angeles personal injury lawyer today, call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 888-9285.   So, how can you overcome a motion to stay the civil proceeding due to a parallel criminal matter?  Let’s take a closer look.  

The Basics

  In Pacers, Inc. v. Superior Court, 162 Cal. App. 3d 686 (1984), the California Supreme Court ruled that a defendant is entitled to a stay of discovery in the civil action until disposition of the criminal matter, but only when both the civil and criminal proceedings arise out of the same or related action.  The Pacers court acknowledged and implemented principles that had been put into place by the federal courts.   Once a motion to stay has been requested, the courts must determine whether a stay of the civil proceeding will be granted, and will assess these factors in the context of the two proceedings:    
  • Whether the issues in the civil and criminal proceedings are substantially related;
  • Whether having both proceedings advance simultaneously would impose a significant burden on the defendant; and
  • Whether granting a stay would impose a significant burden on the plaintiff, the court, and/or the interests of the public and/or other relevant third-parties.
    Generally, the court will not deny a request to stay the civil proceeding unless the balance of factors weighs in favor the plaintiff such that the plaintiff would experience significant prejudice as a result of a delay.   To overcome a motion to stay, you will have to successfully demonstrate that the factors are in your favor.  By demonstrating that the issues being litigated in the civil and criminal proceedings are not substantially related (i.e., by showing that the facts of the two proceedings are only tangentially related, or that the legal issues are unrelated), that there is no or limited hardship on the defendant by allowing both proceedings to continue in parallel, and that a stay would interfere with judicial efficiency, impose a hardship on you, and damage third-party interests (including the interests of the public).   In the event that a stay of a civil proceeding is granted to the defendant, at the very least, the length of the delay cannot be unreasonable, nor may it be unreasonably extended past the disposition of the criminal proceeding.   — Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 888-9285 for a free consultation with an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer today.