At the trial level, the parties present the evidence collected during discovery to a jury or a judge. When the party has the right to a jury trial, the party must exercise it and demand a jury in the original pleading. The original pleading is either the complaint (for the plaintiff) or the answer (for the defendant)—Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (Fed. R. Civ. P.) 38.
Jury trials start with the selection of the jury “from a panel of potential jurors called for jury duty.” This process ends with the jury being impaneled. Next, the party who alleged the wrongdoing, the plaintiff, and who has to meet its burden of proof, makes an opening statement explaining its position. The plaintiff has the burden of proof because the plaintiff has the duty to prove the statements made in the complaint, which remain mere allegations until proved true.
The opposing party will answer with its own statement, and then the plaintiff, because it has the burden of proof, will present evidence in support of its allegations. Then it will rest and the opposing party will have a chance to present its own evidence, and rest. The plaintiff offers proof in support of its allegations. This process is known as presenting the case in chief. The defendant offers its own proof and rebuts the case.
When all the evidence has been presented, the parties will have a second opportunity to make statements to the jury. The statements party make at the end of the trial are called closing arguments.
The trial ends with the judge’s instructions to the jury. The judge will instruct the jury on the applicable law and, sometimes, will also summarize the evidence. For example, for each cause of action the judge will instruct the jury as to what legal rule applies. After the judge delivers her instructions the jury retires for deliberations.