How is it called the person sued in a civil lawsuit?

What is the term for a person being sued in a civil case? This is one of the most common questions asked by many. When one individual holds another for any form of damage to them and seeks compensation through a court-based process, it is known as a Civil Lawsuit.

If the individual suing wins the case, they are given the due amount for the damage caused by the other individual. However, unlike criminal cases where the accused when pronounced guilty has to serve for the charges (in jail and/or pay compensation), in the civil lawsuit, one only has to compensate for the loss, often in monetary value.

The legal term


  • The legal term for the person who has filed the lawsuit is Plaintiff.
  • Whereas the person being sued in a civil case is known as Defendant.

What is a civil lawsuit?

Civil lawsuits can be done over disputes in contracts, eviction notices, car accidents, and the injuries it caused as well as other such conflicts that require the law to mediate the argument between the two parties. Businesses can also file civil lawsuits or be brought to court for the same. 

In short, anyone can file a civil case in case of any grievance and present iron-clad proof to establish their claims.

Facts about civil lawsuits 

  • Oftentimes, the lawsuit is initiated by a private party. It could be an individual or a business that has suffered any harm. Criminal cases, however, are brought by government prosecutors or attorneys.
  • In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff has to present proof of the wrongdoing/damages to establish their case to the jury. The defendant present has to contravene the charges as well as present their side of the story. The evidence can be presented by both sides to prove their claims.

It is commonly seen that the ruling can be done in the favor of the plaintiff, the defendant, or both parties for an amicable resolution on the matter.

  • In criminal cases, the decision is made based on the evidence presented. The evidence should showcase that the person being sued in a civil case is guilty, and only then the decision can be made in the plaintiff’s favor. Criminal cases evidence are tougher to find, and the standards set for them are hard to meet.

But for civil cases, while the plaintiff should have some proof to support their cause, civil cases are more leaning towards understanding the grievances. The requirement of evidence is lighter than in criminal cases.

  • In civil cases, the losing party has to pay in monetary value for the winning side. The plaintiff (let’s consider is the winning party) can ask for an amount of money that cost them due to the damages done. The court will reward that amount to the winning side. This is known as the ‘Damages Award’.

Comparing it to criminal cases, the losing party ends up serving jail time, compensation, probation, community service, or a mixture of these, depending upon the severity of the crime.

What are some examples of a civil lawsuit?

  • Cases of negligence
  • Injuries caused to the individual in the said argument
  • Malpractices in the medical field
  • Committed Fraud
  • Contract Breach by a party.
  • Residential evictions before the lease have expired.

How can an individual file a civil lawsuit?

When one party (business or private) is unable to fulfill the terms of a contract or avoids doing a job promised, which further can cause damages to the other party. The latter can file a civil lawsuit against the former.

Taking an example, Person A owes Person B $25,000 but is unable/avoiding paying the amount back. In such a case, Person B can approach the court and request a verdict against Person A. If the ruling is done in favor of Person B, Person A will have to pay that amount back.

For starters, the plaintiff will have to file a complaint against the party concerned. They are also required to file a summon in the right court. 2 separate documents are required for a civil lawsuit and they need to be presented to the court.

  • One document is the complaint against the involved party and the grievance that was caused to the plaintiff.
  • The summons has a copy of the complaint filed and the requirements from the defendant’s party in response to it.

In some cases, the response is sent in a written form, whereas in others, the defendant can appear in court.

The person being sued in a civil case, i.e., the defendant or their attorney has a maximum limit of 21 days to respond to the summons served to them. The defendant is also liable to file a response in court. If they fail to do so, the judgment, by default will be against the defendant.

Pleadings or the documents that have the complaints, summons, response by the defendant, which can also include a countersuit against the plain, tiff, and additional documents are presented to the jury for further trial.

Tax cases in civil court

Much of these cases are between the individual or the business who are taxpayers versus the IRS. Of the case proceeds to the Tax Court of U.S., the taxpaying business or individual becomes the plaintiff, and the defendant is the IRS. 

This is because the taxpaying party is refuting the claims or the rulings made by the IRS.

These cases begin when the taxpaying party files a petition in a tax court against the IRS.  Almost $50,000 or fewer disputes are done through a simplified small tax case procedure offered and done under the court. Either party (taxpaying or IRS) cannot contest the decision made in the tax case. 

While individuals are free to seek out damage charges from civil lawsuits, the word of advice is to have an iron-clad alibi and evidence against the party involved.

Even though, the burden of proof in civil courts is lighter as compared to criminal charges. Evidence, in any legal matter, can lead to a favorable judgment by the jury for the plaintiff.