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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 court of law. The archaic term "suit in law" is found in only a small number of laws still in effect today. The term "lawsuit" is used in reference to a civil acti ...
(also known as an ''action'') before a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of justice in Civil law (common law), civil, Cr ...
. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy. If this search is successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of the plaintiff and make the appropriate court order (e.g., an order for damages). "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 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 countries with either the common law adversarial system or the Civil law (legal system), civil law inquisitorial system. The prosecution is the legal party responsible for presenting the ...
brings the case against the defendant, but the key complaining party is often called the "complainant". In some
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin ''Wikt:ius#Latin, juris'' 'law' + ''Wikt:dictio, dictio'' 'declaration') is the practical authority granted to a legal body to administer justice, as defined by the kind of case, and the location of the issue (its ). In f ...
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 as a court attendance notice (CAN)) is a legal document issued by a court (a ''judicial summons'') or by an administrative agency of government ...
, claim form or a complaint. These documents are known as pleadings, that set forth the alleged wrongs committed by the defendant or defendants with a demand for relief. In other jurisdictions, the action is commenced by service of legal process by delivery of these documents on the defendant by a process server; they are only filed with the court subsequently with an affidavit from the process server that they had been given to the defendant according to the rules of
civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits (as opposed to procedures in criminal law matters). These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced; what kind o ...
.


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 metropolitan area and Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of the China, People's Repu ...
, Nigeria, Australia, Canada and the United States, as well as in both Northern Ireland and the 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 "wikt:plaintive, 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 is called a named plaintiff. 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 and administrative law. After exhausting remedies available through an insurer or government agency, 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 Law of England and Wales, England and Wales, the term "claimant" replaced "plaintiff" after the Civil Procedure Rules 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" than the word "plaintiff". In Scottish law 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; 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 * Defendant * Lawsuit


References

{{Authority control Common law legal terminology Judicial legal terminology