Difference Between Plaintiff & Defendant

Plaintiff vs Defendant

Identifying the difference between the terms Plaintiff and Defendant is fairly simple and relatively easy for many. Indeed, fans of Law and Order or any other legal drama are experts at distinguishing the two terms. For those of us who are still a little uncertain of the difference, let’s understand it through a simple example. Imagine a tennis match between two people. It is essentially a competition between two people, where one serves and the other responds, ultimately declaring a winner. Imagine that these two people are called Plaintiff and Defendant. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the definition of each term to get a better understanding.

Key Takeaways

  • A Plaintiff is the person who initiates a legal action against another person
  • A Defendant is the person who is being sued by the Plaintiff
  • The burden of proving the charges against the Defendant lies with the Plaintiff

Who is a Plaintiff?

Plaintiff refers to a person who initiates a court case or legal proceeding against another person. Thus, it is the Plaintiff that files the first complaint or action with a court of law. In such an instance, the Plaintiff is bringing an issue before the court concerning another person or entity. In certain jurisdictions, a Plaintiff is also known as a ‘claimant’ or ‘complainant’. The complaint filed by the Plaintiff generally contains a prayer seeking redress or relief for some wrong committed by another person. If the Plaintiff is successful in proving his/her case, then the court issues an order or judgment in favour of the Plaintiff. Typically, when a Plaintiff initiates an action, he/she lists out the accusations or wrongs committed by the other party. In a civil action, the Plaintiff is usually an individual or legal entity such as a corporation or other organization. In a criminal action, the Plaintiff is represented by the State. There can be more than one Plaintiff. To continue from the above example of a tennis match, there can be two Plaintiffs or, in tennis lingo, it could be a Doubles match.

Who is a Defendant?

If the Plaintiff is the person initiating an action in law, then the Defendant is the person against whom the action is filed. In other words, the Defendant is the person being sued for an alleged wrong or charge. Typically, a Defendant seeks to prove his/her innocence and thereby deny the accusations listed by the Plaintiff. While the Plaintiff must prove that the Defendant committed the said acts, the Defendant has to defend his/her actions to the court. In some instances, the Defendant counters the Plaintiff’s complaint by directing the attention of the court to some act of the Plaintiff, which puts the latter at fault or partially to blame. Typically, when a Plaintiff files a complaint, the Defendant responds by way of an answer either accepting or denying the charges in the complaint or bringing a counter-charge as mentioned above. In a criminal case, the Defendant is also the accused, this means the person who is charged with committing the crime. As in the case of a Plaintiff, there can be more than one Defendant and a Defendant can be either a person or legal entity such as a partnership, organization or company.

What is the difference between Plaintiff and Defendant?

• A Plaintiff is the person who initiates a legal action against another person.
• A Defendant is the person who is being sued by the Plaintiff.
• A Defendant in a criminal case is also known as the accused.
• The burden of proving the charges against the Defendant lies with the Plaintiff.

Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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