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What is a Civil Lawsuit?

Broadly speaking, all lawsuits can be put into one of two categories: criminal or civil.  Criminal cases are brought by the government against a private person and/or organization for committing an act that is considered harmful to society as a whole; whereas civil cases involve private disputes between individuals and/or organizations.

Civil litigation begins when one person or organization claims that another person or organization has failed to carry out a legal duty owed to the claimant.  Legal duties are those prescribed either by contract between the parties, or by the law.

In order for a claimant to commence legal action against another party, the claimant must file a summons and complaint with the court and serve a copy of the summons and complaint on the party against whom the lawsuit is being brought.  The person who brings the lawsuit is called the “Plaintiff” and the person against whom the lawsuit is brought is called the “Defendant.”

The complaint must not only state the legal grounds upon which the lawsuit is premised, but must also state the plaintiff’s requested relief.  The plaintiff may ask the court to compel the defendant to fulfill the duty owed, compensate the Plaintiff for the harm done, or both. A plaintiff might claim economic losses and non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.

Within the broad umbrella of civil lawsuits are many different types of cases, such as contract disputes, evictions, personal injuries, child custody and support, etc.  

Once a person or entity files a civil lawsuit, the court holds a trial, during which each party presents evidence to the judge and/or a jury.  The judge or jury then makes a determination regarding whether the defendant did in fact wrong the plaintiff, and what type of relief should be awarded.

Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara is a full-service civil law firm, offering legal services in the following practice areas:

  • General Civil Litigation
  • Construction Litigation
  • Business Litigation
  • Family Law
  • Employment Litigation
  • Wills Trust & Estates
  • Real Estate Litigation
  • Environmental Toxic Tort/Habitational Litigation
  • Trucking & Transportation


If you, or someone you know, needs an attorney to represent him or her in a civil lawsuit, contact Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara to learn more about our services.