How a Case Begins

Beginning the Case

The person who begins a lawsuit is called the plaintiff, and the person against whom the lawsuit is brought is called the defendant. A suit is begun when the plaintiff states his or her claim in a document called a complaint, which is filed with the court. In response, the defendant states his or her defenses and other contentions in a document called an answer, which is also filed with the court.

These documents are referred to as the pleadings, and the points in the pleadings on which the parties disagree make up the issues in the lawsuit. Jurors should understand that the pleadings are not evidence, but merely state the contentions of the parties.