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I have seen a few youtube videos that go over the basics of US civil process. My understanding of it is that the first move of the defendant is always to move to dismiss. In this stage, everything alleged by the plaintiff is taken at face value, and I believe there are also reasonable inferences included, to decide whether the claims have merit.

This makes me wonder: what if it is established in court that you knowingly or through gross negligence included a falsehood, or a claim you have no evidence for, just to clear that initial hurdle? What would the consequences be for that?

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what if it is established in court that you knowingly or through gross negligence included a falsehood, or a claim you have no evidence for, just to clear that initial hurdle? What would the consequences be for that?

The case proceeds and if it goes to trial, the finder of fact determines if the case prevails or not. Also, note that except in the case of a verified complaint, a complaint in a civil case is not made under oath or under penalty of perjury.

In the rare and unlikely event that it is established that you knew that your case had no factual basis at the outset, you (and your attorney in many cases), can be sanctioned by the court, usually in the form of the attorney fees incurred by other side as a result of the knowingly false statement.

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In common law trials, a trial asks 2 fundamental questions: "What do the facts say?" and "What does the law say?" With rare exceptions, the first question is always answered by the jury in both civil and criminal matters, but the second question is answered by a judge, who has actually studied law.

A motion to dismiss is essentially the defense/respondents in a civil case asking the judge to not let the case proceed because the plaintiff is not supported by law. Therefore there is no evidentiary matter brought to the court for this determination, but rather just a summation of why the actions alleged are not violations of tort laws, and thus why the plaintiff cannot sue the respondent. The respondent can cite case law and make opinion statements, but it is up to the judge to determine if the case has merit to progress to the next stage of the lawsuit's procedures: discovery.

Discovery is actually where evidence (which is fact) is developed, and generally it's in everyone's best interest to avoid discovery (Typically, if you hear about a settlement, it is happening shortly after discovery is scheduled.) In discovery, both parties may request the other to turn over possible evidence to build their case against them. During this process, the requesting party need not show that the evidence exists in a location, but merely show that evidence COULD exist in order to get the court to approve requests. This can be very invasive (for both sides) of the suit, and since it may have evidence, it will mean the information is made public.

So, in fact, during the initial motions to dismiss, there isn't necessarily evidence that has been developed, so there are no factual arguments being made. Only legal arguments that are more persuading a judge to interpret the law in one way over another way.

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  • I don't understand the point of this. It doesn't answer the question at all.
    – bdb484
    Apr 28, 2023 at 18:06
  • @Bdb484 Motions to dismiss during preliminary do not deal in facts of the case and assume all alleged facts are true. It instead deals with whether this is a tort that the court is capable of hearing by law.
    – hszmv
    May 1, 2023 at 11:29
  • Yes, that's the premise of the question. I don't understand how this does anything to answer that question. Ohwilleke's answer gets it right, though.
    – bdb484
    May 1, 2023 at 12:50
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Knowingly misleading (aka lying) to the court is a crime

There are a suite of crimes which fall under the umbrella of obstruction of justice.

Of course, holding a good faith belief in a fact which is ultimately not supported by the evidence isn’t lying.

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  • More specifically, the crime is called Perjury, which can be a type of Obstruction of Justice, but is not typically charged under that name when it involves lying while under oath.
    – hszmv
    Apr 18, 2023 at 11:51
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    @hszmv Lying in a complaint in a civil lawsuit is not perjury since it is not a statement made under oath or under penalty of perjury.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 18, 2023 at 21:56

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