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.”