The filing of a civil complaint starts the civil process. The complaint sets forth the type and amount of damages being claimed by the plaintiff (the person who is filing the lawsuit) against the defendant (the person being sued).
There are many different types of civil complaints, that address a variety of issues. These issues can generally be broken down into four categories: breach of contract, tort, equitable claim and landlord/tenant issues.
In civil disputes where damage is done to a party, that party can file a civil lawsuit for money damages. Breach of Contract is one of the most common reasons individuals or businesses file a civil case. A breach of contract case is typically filed because a person or entity failed to perform some term of a contract without some legitimate excuse. The contract could be written or oral. Cases involving not paying a debt, failure to complete a job or failure to deliver goods are examples of breach of contract claims.
A “tort” is a wrongful act (other than a breach of contract) that results in injury to someone’s reputation, person, property or the like. In a tort action, the party suing is seeking monetary compensation for the damages caused by the other party. Examples of civil tort claims include claims of defamation, fraud, personal injury, battery, medical malpractice, or other negligence.
In some instances, depending on the case, a party may ask for something other than money damages. For example, a person may ask the court to issue an injunction against another party which bars a person from doing a specific act. These civil cases are based on an equitable claim. A civil suit can be filed to get a court order to stop some action or to require the person being sued to take some particular action. Sometimes an equitable civil case also includes a claim for money damages. Cases seeking a temporary restraining order or injunction to stop something (selling property, soliciting customers or stopping the destruction of property are examples of equitable civil suits. The court may issue a restraining order restricting a defendant’s actions until the case is resolved. For example, a person signs a contract to buy a house from the homeowner and the owner turns around and sells the house for a second time to another person. The first buyer may ask the court to restrain the seller from completing the sale to the second buyer until the case between the first buyer and the seller is resolved.
Landlord/tenant issues are also handled by the civil court. These cases may involve matters where a landlord has refused to return a security deposit to a tenant, failed to provide habitable premises or when the landlord has filed an unlawful detainer action to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent or other reason.