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  • Writer's picturePeter Lamont, Esq.

Am I a Plaintiff or Defendant?

Many lawyers think that everyone knows the difference between a plaintiff and defendant. However, the truth is that it is a confusing distinction for many non-lawyers (or normal people, as I like to call them) to make. Today, I am going to simplify the difference between the two titles and clear up any confusion that might be floating around online.

Plaintiff The Plaintiff is the person, persons, or business that is suing another party or parties. If you are the Plaintiff, you are seeking some legal remedy from the Court. You could be seeking money or a court order to make the other party do something or stop doing something. It is the Plaintiff who files the Complaint and kicks off the lawsuit.

For example, let's say that you are minding your own business, driving down the street, heading over to the "Golden Arches" for a quick french fry fix. As you drive past the the other fast food joint, you know, the one run by the "King", you are unaware that the King ran out of milk shakes and that Charlie, one of the King's loyal customers is irate. He speeds out of the drive-thru in a fit of rage and accidentally smashes into the side of your car. Unfortunately, you injure your neck, back and knee. You end up needing knee surgery and other medical treatment (not to mention that you never did get your fries). You want justice and some money for your pain and suffering and so, you sue Charlie. You are the Plaintiff.

Defendant Now that you know more about the role of the Plaintiff, it should be easy to understand the role of the Defendant. The Defendant is the person, persons, or entity who is being sued. So, in the example above, Charlie is the Defendant.

Now we are going to get a little crazy. There are times when a Defendant can also become a Plaintiff within the same lawsuit. Let's take a look at this madness.

Plaintiff on the Counter-Claim In some cases, a Defendant may believe that the Plaintiff did something that caused him some type of damage. For example, let's say that the parties had entered into a contract. The Plaintiff believes that the Defendant breached the contract by failing to provide goods and sues the other party. When the Defendant gets served with the Complaint he and his lawyer believe that the Plaintiff actually caused the breach by not paying as agreed. So, the Defendant files a counter-claim against the Plaintiff. Now, the Defendant also a Plaintiff on the counter-claim.


Basically, if you are suing someone then you are the Plaintiff and if you are being sued, you are the Defendant.


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