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A plaintiff (Π in legal shorthand), also known as a claimant or complainant, is the term used in some jurisdictions for the party who initiates a lawsuit (also known as an action) before a court. By doing so, the plaintiff seeks a legal remedy, and if successful, the court will issue judgment in favor of the plaintiff and make the appropriate court order (e.g., an order for damages).

In some jurisdictions the commencement of a lawsuit is done by filing a summons, claim form and/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(s) according to the rules of civil procedure.

Not all lawsuits are plenary actions, involving a full trial on the merits of the case. There are also simplified procedures, often called proceedings, in which the parties are termed petitioner instead of plaintiff, and respondent instead of defendant. There are also cases that do not technically involve two sides, such as petitions for specific statutory relief that require judicial approval; in those cases there are no respondents, just a petitioner.


In England and Wales, the term Claimant has replaced Plaintiff after the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 came into force on 26 April 1999.[1] In Scottish law, a plaintiff is referred to as a pursuer and a defendant as a defender. "Complainant" may also denote the complaining witness in a criminal proceeding.

In Hong Kong and the United States, as well as in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the legal term "plaintiff" is still in use. American usage traditionally limits the application of terms such as "claimant" and "claim form" 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.

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.[2]

A plaintiff identified by name in a class action is called a named plaintiff.

The party to whom the complaint is against 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Justice.gov.uk
  2. ^ "Etymology Online". etymonline.com. Retrieved 2008-04-24. 

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Texas Lawyer
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:07:30 -0700

Counsel: For United States of America, Plaintiff-Appellee (12-41177): Terri Lynn Hagan, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Heather Harris Rattan, Esq., Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Texas, Plano, TX; Traci Lynne Kenner ...
New York Times
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 18:17:32 -0700

More likely to side with defendant Plaintiff lawyers may believe that because you are a younger person, you may be less likely to sympathize with someone in her 60s and would be less likely to be disturbed by the idea of losing a lot of money later in ...

Madison County Record

Madison County Record
Thu, 21 Aug 2014 06:52:30 -0700

For Maria Bailey of Chicago to sue St. Clair County associate judge Ellen Dauber, who canceled her mother's funeral, she must show that Dauber lacked jurisdiction. Judges enjoy absolute immunity from civil suits for their actions as long as they act ...
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 21:07:30 -0700

David Carter named 'Plaintiff's Lawyer of the Year'. Andrea Smith. 11:07 PM, Aug 20, 2014. indian river county ugc. David Carter, Esq. Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, ...
Law360 (subscription)
Wed, 20 Aug 2014 16:26:15 -0700

Law360, New York (August 20, 2014, 7:21 PM ET) -- A Michigan federal judge on Wednesday approved an agreement to dismiss a whistleblower suit that had accused Michigan-based public utility Consumers Energy Co. of defrauding its customers and the ...
The Economist
Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700

HAMAS, the Islamic militant group that runs Gaza and conducts terrorist attacks in Israel, does not tend to answer court summons. But Arab Bank, one of the oldest financial institutions in the Middle East, does. This week, after a decade of legal toing ...
New York Law Journal (registration)
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700

Plaintiff Brunswick Central School District ("Plaintiff," or "BCSD") brings this action seeking tuition reimbursement from Defendant Gill Montague Regional School District ("Defendant," or "GMRSD") under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ...
Texas Lawyer
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:11:15 -0700

Counsel: For UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff - Appellant: John Michael Pellettieri, Esq., U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, DC; Renata Ann Gowie, Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas, Houston, TX.

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