Procedures of Civil Cases

LeAnn Husted

Plaintiff and Defendant

The plaintiff is the person who brings the case into the court, while the defendant is the one being sued. (Defense and Prosecution)

A plaintiff can sue over many different things including property disputes, contract issues, divorce, negligence, and personal injury.

Step One

The first step in starting a civil court case is to hire an attorney, who will file a complaint with the proper court.

A complaint is a formal statement naming the plaintiff and the defendant as well describing the lawsuit.

Step Two

The court then sends a summons, which is a document that tells the defendant of the suit against her and orders her to appear in court on a certain day and time. The defendant then has to send a response to the charges.


A defendant may respond to the charges by having their own attorney answer to the complaint. Pleadings are the complaint and the answer together. The defendant can admit guilt or give reasons why he/she is not responsible.

Step Three

Pre-Trial discussions.

The judge can have both parties in a meeting and help clarify differences and prepare for a trial. If the suit is weak, they can decide to drop the suit. The two parties could also decide to resolve the dispute through mediation or arbitration.

Step Four


If the parties can't reach an agreement, then the case goes to trial. A trial has a jury of 6-12 people or may have just a judge to hear the case. In a trial the plaintiff will present it's side first, then the defendant. The plaintiff must prove case with a "preponderance of evidence" -enough to persuade the judge or jury that the defendant is responsible for the damages. Both sides will then summarize their cases, and the judge or jury will then decide the case.

Step Five


The judge will then reach a verdict, or a decision on the case. The judge will make a decision in favor of one of the parties.

If the defendant wins, the plaintiff receives nothing and must pay court costs. If the plaintiff wins, a remedy is set- pay compensation, replace lost earnings, etc.

Step 6


If you don't like the verdict, you have the right to appeal the decision with a higher court, meaning you are not satisfied with the decision.

Types of Lawsuits

1. Suits in Equity: A person or group seeks fair treatment in a situation where there is no existing law to help decide the matter. This type of suit has a judge only, no jury, and he may issue an injunction, which is a court order commanding a person to stop a certain action.

Two other examples are Compensatory damages and Punitive damages. Compensatory are damages that are awarded to a plaintiff for injuries incurred as a result of the actions of the defendant. Punitive are only to be awarded by the judge presiding over a case if he decides it is important to make an example out of the defendant.