A lawsuit or (less commonly) "suit in law" is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint. If the plaintiff is successful, judgment will be given in the plaintiff's favor, and a variety of court orders may be issued to enforce a right, award damages, or impose a temporary or permanent injunction to prevent an act or compel an act. A declaratory judgment may be issued to prevent future legal disputes. Although not as common, lawsuit may also refer to a criminal action, criminal proceeding, or criminal claim. A lawsuit may involve dispute resolution of private law issues between individuals, business entities or non-profit organizations. A lawsuit may also enable the state to be treated as if it were a private party in a civil case, as plaintiff or defendant regarding an injury, or may provide the state with a civil cause of action to enforce certain laws. The conduct of a lawsuit is called litigation. One who has a tendency to litigate rather than seek non-judicial remedies is called litigious. The plaintiffs and defendants are called litigants and the attorneys representing them are called litigators.
Rules of procedure and complications in lawsuits: Rules of criminal or civil procedure govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the common law adversarial system of dispute resolution. Procedural rules are additionally constrained/informed by separate statutory laws, case law, and constitutional provisions that define the rights of the parties to a lawsuit (see especially due process), though the rules will generally reflect this legal context on their face. The details of procedure differ greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and often from court to court within the same jurisdiction. The rules are very important for litigants to know, however, because they dictate the timing and progression of the lawsuit—what may be filed and when, to obtain what result. Failure to comply with the procedural rules may result in serious limitations upon the ability to present claims or defenses at any subsequent trial, or even dismissal of the lawsuit. To find an attorney please check the largest attorney directory online or to find an california attorney search please check the largest california attorney search directory online or to find an unemployment attorney please check the largest unemployment attorney directory online or to find an juvenile attorney please check the largest juvenile attorney directory online.
Though the majority of lawsuits are settled and never reach trial, they can be very complicated to litigate. This is particularly true in federal systems, where a federal court may be applying state law (e.g., the Erie doctrine in the United States) or vice versa, or one state applying the law of another, and where it additionally may not be clear which level (or location) of court actually has jurisdiction over the claim or personal jurisdiction over the defendant. For example, about 98 percent of civil cases in the United States federal courts are resolved without a trial. Domestic courts are also often called upon to apply foreign law, or to act upon foreign defendants, over whom they may not, as a practical matter, even have the ability to enforce a judgment if the defendant's assets are outside their reach.
Lawsuits become additionally complicated as more parties become involved (see joinder). Within a "single" lawsuit, there can be any number of claims and defenses (all based on numerous laws) between any number of plaintiffs or defendants, each of whom can bring any number of cross-claims and counterclaims against each other, and even bring additional parties into the suit on either side after it progresses. However, courts typically have some power to sever claims and parties into separate actions if it is more efficient to do so, such as if there is not a sufficient overlap of factual issues between the various claims.
The progress of a lawsuit
Pleading: A lawsuit begins when a complaint is filed with the court. This complaint will state that one or more plaintiffs is seeking damages or equitable relief from one or more stated defendants, and will identify the legal and factual bases for doing so. It is important that the "plaintiff selects the proper venue with the proper jurisdiction to bring his lawsuit." The clerk of a court signs or stamps the court seal upon a summons, which is then served by the plaintiff upon the defendant, together with a copy of the complaint. This service notifies the defendants that they are being sued and that they have a specific time limit to file a response. By providing a copy of the complaint, the service also notifies the defendants of the nature of the claims. Once the defendants are served with the summons and complaint, they are subject to a time limit to file an answer stating their defenses to the plaintiff's claims, including any challenges to the court's jurisdiction, and any counterclaims they wish to assert against the plaintiff.
In a handful of jurisdictions (notably, the U.S. state of New York) a lawsuit begins when one or more plaintiffs properly serve a summons and complaint upon the defendant(s). In such jurisdictions, nothing needs to be filed with the court until a dispute develops requiring actual judicial intervention.
If the defendant chooses to file an answer within the time permitted, the answer must address each of the plaintiffs' allegations by admitting the allegation, denying it, or pleading a lack of sufficient information to admit or deny the allegation. Some jurisdictions, like California, still authorize general denials of each and every allegation in the complaint. At the time she or he files an answer, the defendant will also raise all "affirmative" defenses she or he may have. She or he may also assert any counterclaims for damages or equitable relief against the plaintiff, and in the case of "compulsory counterclaims," must do so or risk having the counterclaim barred in any subsequent proceeding. The defendant may also file a "third party complaint" in which she or he seeks to join another party or parties in the action if she or he believes those parties may be liable for some or all of the plaintiff's damages. Filing an answer "joins the cause" and moves the case into the pre-trial phase.
Instead of filing an answer within the time specified in the summons, the defendant can choose to dispute the validity of the complaint by filing a demurrer (in the handful of jurisdictions where that is still allowed) or one or more "pre-answer motions," such as a motion to dismiss. The motion must be filed within the time period specified in the summons for an answer. If all such motions are denied by the trial court, and the defendant loses on all appeals from such denials (if that option is available), then the defendant must file an answer.
Usually the pleadings are drafted by a lawyer, but in many courts persons can file papers and represent themselves, which is called appearing pro se. Many courts have a pro se clerk to assist people without lawyers.