What is a lawsuit? Definition and examples

A lawsuit is a dispute or claim that one party or parties bring to a law court for adjudication. It is a proceeding by one party against another party in a civil court. A lawsuit is a civil legal action that somebody or some people brought in a court. One party sues another party for something; usually money.

Some lawsuits also involve an action to enjoin. To enjoin means to order one party to do, or refrain from doing something. In most cases, the order aims to prevent permanent loss to the other party.

In this context, a ‘party‘ may refer to a person, business, or government agency. The term ‘party,’ in this article, refers to both the singular and plural unless otherwise stated.

We refer to the party that is suing as the ‘plaintiff,’ and the party being sued as the ‘defendant.’

Collins Dictionary has the following definition of the term:

“A lawsuit is a case in a court of law which concerns a dispute between two people or organizations.”

The term ‘suit in law‘ also exists. It is an archaic term. However, it exists in a small number of laws that are still in effect today.

Lawsuit - definition and illustration
A lawsuit is a case before a court – a suit in law.

Lawsuit – civil action

A lawsuit may be a civil action brought in a court of law. The plaintiff demands a legal or equitable remedy.

In such cases, the defendant must respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. The court may award damages to a successful plaintiff, or it may enforce a right. Sometimes the court may impose a permanent or temporary injunction to compel or prevent an act.

When the court issues a declaratory judgment, it prevents future legal disputes. A declaratory judgment is a type of legally binding preventive adjudication. It is the court’s legal determination that resolves legal uncertainty for the litigants.

Class action lawsuit

When the plaintiffs consist of a group of people, we call it a class action lawsuit. One of the parties is a group of individuals who one person represents collectively. That representative belongs to the group.

Class action lawsuits, which began in the United States, are still mainly a US phenomenon.

However, many European countries with civil law have changed their legislation to allow consumer organizations to bring claims. They bring the claims on behalf of consumers. Canadian lawmakers have also altered legislation for the same reason.

Lawsuits – different types

There are several types of lawsuits. Below are details on some common types.

  • Car accident lawsuit

After a car accident, drivers, passengers, and/or pedestrians may sustain injuries. These injuries may cause not only pain and discomfort but also enormous financial burden. The victim may have, for example, expensive medical bills, loss of income, and temporary or permanent disability.

The injured party may try to sue the other party in the car accident for compensation. Compensation, in this context, refers to money that makes up for an injury, loss of income, pain, etc.

  • Securities class action lawsuit

A securities class action or securities fraud class action is a lawsuit that investors bring to a court. They bought or sold, for example, a company’s shares within a specific period and suffered economic injury. Their economic injury was due to violations of the securities laws.

The term ‘securitiesrefers to a financial instrument or contract that, when traded, is given a value. In this article, ‘securities’ refers to ‘shares.’

A recent study found that overconfident CEOs are more likely to face securities class actions compared to other CEOs. However, after the lawsuit, most of them become much more cautious.

  • Workers’ compensation

If an employee sustains an injury on the job, the employer may be responsible or liable. It is the employer’s legal responsibility to maintain a safe working environment.

A worker may slip, fall, breathe in toxic fumes, or get hurt by equipment.

Regarding workers’ compensation, 1-800-THE-LAW2 says the following:

“Although you cannot file a lawsuit against your employer for workers’ compensation benefits, a lawyer can handle the process for you to help ensure that you get maximum compensation, medical attention and time off work to recover as required by law.”

“A workers’ compensation lawyer can also help ensure that you are not illegally terminated because of your injuries.”

Lawsuits also exist regarding product liability, drug recalls, dog bites, and medical malpractice.