A lawsuit (or legal action) is a civil action filed in a tribunal in which a plaintiff, someone asserting to have suffered a loss as a result of a defendant’s actions or inactions, asks a legal or equitable remedial measure.
The defendant must reply to the plaintiff’s legal papers, or a default judgment may be entered. If the plaintiff wins the case, judgment is in his favor, and many court orders exist so that enforcement of a right, the award of damages, or impositions of a temporary or permanent injunction may be accomplished. A declaratory judgment is often sought to prevent future lawsuits.
A lawsuit generally involves the resolution of disputes between private parties, corporations or non-profit organizations.
The phases involved in a lawsuit are referred to the word “litigation”. The plaintiffs and defendants of a lawsuit are the litigants, and are generally represented by a litigation law firm. The word litigation is also used in criminal proceedings.
The civil and criminal procedure rules control the phases of a lawsuit in the common law-based legal system. Procedural rules are also amended and changed by other statutory laws, precedential decisions, and constitutional rules that set the rights of the parties involved in legal proceedings. The substance and extent of procedural laws change greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (State or Federal), and even from court to court within the same judicial district or federal appellate circuit. The procedural rules are crucial for the trial because they impose the timing of the lawsuit’s stages, and what the parties can file (and when), such as motions to dismiss, motion to suppress evidence, motion for summary judgment, or motions to reopen criminal cases.