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A plaintiff ( Π in legal shorthand) is the party who initiates a
lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil ...
(also known as an ''action'') before a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''Sta ...

court
. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a
legal remedy A legal remedy, also referred to as judicial relief or a judicial remedy, is the means with which a court of law A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing ...
. If this search is successful, the court will issue
judgment Judgement (or US spelling judgment) is also known as ''adjudication Adjudication is the legal process by which an arbitration, arbiter or judge reviews evidence (law), evidence and argumentation, including legal reasoning set forth by opposing ...
in favor of the plaintiff and make the appropriate
court order A court order is an official proclamation by a judge A judge is a person who presides over court A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organize ...
(e.g., an order for
damages At common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary ...
). "Plaintiff" is the term used in civil cases in most English-speaking jurisdictions, the notable exception being
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
, where a plaintiff has, since the introduction of the
Civil Procedure Rules The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) were introduced in 1997 as per the Civil Procedure Act 1997 and are the rules of English civil procedure, civil procedure used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in Civil law (common law ...
in 1999, been known as a "claimant", but that term also has other meanings. In criminal cases, the
prosecutor A prosecutor is a legal representative of the prosecution in states with either the common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by co ...
brings the case against the defendant, but the key complaining party is often called the "complainant". In some
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s, a lawsuit is commenced by filing a
summons A summons (also known in England and Wales as a claim form and in the Australian state of New South Wales New South Wales (abbreviated as NSW) is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a mo ...
, claim form or a
complaint In legal terminology, a complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons (see: cause of action A cause of action or right of action, in law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interac ...

complaint
. These documents are known as
pleading In law as practiced in countries that follow the English models, a pleading is a formal written statement of a party's claims or defenses to another party's claims in a civil action. The parties' pleadings in a case define the issues to be adjudi ...
s, that set forth the alleged wrongs committed by the
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
or defendants with a demand for relief. In other jurisdictions, the action is commenced by service of
legal process Legal process (sometimes simply process) is any formal notice or writ by a court obtaining jurisdiction over a person or property. Common forms of process include a summons, subpoena, Mandate (criminal law), mandate, and warrant (law), warrant. ...
by delivery of these documents on the defendant by a process server; they are only filed with the court subsequently with an
affidavit An ( ; Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''commu ...
from the process server that they had bee


Terminology

In most English-speaking jurisdictions, including
Hong Kong Hong Kong (; , ), officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR), is a city A city is a large human settlement.Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Pe ...

Hong Kong
,
Nigeria Nigeria (), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of . The defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and as we ...

Nigeria
,
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...

Australia
,
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America North America is a continent A continent is any of several large landmasses. Generally identified by convention (norm), convention rather than any strict criteria, ...

Canada
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
, as well as in both
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
and the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland ('), is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective id ...

Republic of Ireland
, the legal term "plaintiff" is used as a general term for the party taking action in a civil case. The word ''plaintiff'' can be traced to the year 1278, and stems from the Anglo-French word ''pleintif'' meaning "complaining". It was identical to " plaintive" at first and receded into legal usage with the -iff spelling in the 15th century. A plaintiff identified by name in a
class action A class action, also known as a class-action lawsuit, class suit, or representative action, is a type of lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility ...
is called a
named plaintiff A class action, also known as a class-action lawsuit, class suit, or representative action, is a type of lawsuit where one of the parties is a group of people who are represented collectively by a member or members of that group. The class action ...
. In most common-law jurisdictions, the term "claimant" used in England and Wales since 1999 (see below) is used only in specific, often non-judicial contexts. In particular, in American usage, terms such as "claimant" and "claim form" are limited to extrajudicial process in
insurance Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management Risk management is the identification, evaluation, and prioritization of risk In simple terms, risk is the possibility of something bad happening. ...

insurance
and
administrative law Administrative law is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by ...
. After exhausting remedies available through an
insurer Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent or uncertain loss. An entity which provides insurance is known as an insurer, an insurance c ...
or
government agency A government or state agency, sometimes an appointed commission, is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government The machinery of government (sometimes abbreviated as MoG) is the interconnected structures and proce ...
, an American claimant in need of further relief would turn to the courts, file a complaint (thus establishing a real court case under judicial supervision) and become a plaintiff. In
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...
, the term "claimant" replaced "plaintiff" after the
Civil Procedure Rules The Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) were introduced in 1997 as per the Civil Procedure Act 1997 and are the rules of English civil procedure, civil procedure used by the Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice, and County Courts in Civil law (common law ...
came into force on 26 April 1999. The move, which brings England and Wales out of line with general usage in English-speaking jurisdictions, was reportedly based on an assessment that the word "claimant" is more acceptable as "
plain English Plain English (or layman's terms) is language that is considered to be clear and concise. It may often attempt to avoid the use of uncommon vocabulary and lesser-known euphemisms in order to explain the subject matter. The wording is intended to be ...
" than the word "plaintiff". In
Scottish law Scots law () is the legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of each co ...
a plaintiff is referred to as a "pursuer" and a defendant as a "defender". The party against whom the complaint is made is the
defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
; or, in the case of a petition, a respondent. Case names are usually given with the plaintiff first, as in ''Plaintiff v. Defendant''. The similar term "complainant" denotes the complaining witness in a criminal proceeding.


See also

*
Legal financing Legal financing (also known as litigation financing, professional funding, settlement funding, third-party funding, legal funding, lawsuit loans and, in England and Wales, litigation funding) is the mechanism or process through which litigants (an ...
*
Defendant In court proceedings, a defendant is a person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary fi ...
*
Lawsuit A lawsuit is a proceeding by a party or parties against another in the civil Civil may refer to: *Civic virtue, or civility *Civil action, or lawsuit *Civil affairs *Civil and political rights *Civil disobedience *Civil engineering *Civil ...


References

{{Authority control
Common law legal terminologyCommon law legal terms is a category for legal phrases or terms originating in Common law. Legal terms Legal terminology by legal system {{CatAutoTOC ...
Judicial legal terminology