Plaintiff - Terminology

Terminology

In England and Wales, the term Claimant has replaced Plaintiff after the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 came into force on 26 April 1999. In Scottish law, a plaintiff is referred to as a pursuer and a defendant as a defender.

In Hong Kong and the United States, as well as in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the legal term "plaintiff" is still in use. Americans traditionally limit the application of terms such as "claimant" and "claim form" to extrajudicial process in insurance and administrative law. After exhausting remedies available through an insurer or government agency, an American claimant in need of further relief would turn to the courts, file a complaint (thus establishing a real court case under judicial supervision), and become a plaintiff.

The word plaintiff can be traced to the year 1278 and stems from the Anglo-French word pleintif meaning complaining from pleint. It was identical with plaintive at first and receded into legal usage with the -iff spelling in the 15th century.

A plaintiff identified by name in a class action is called a named plaintiff.

The party to whom the complaint is against is the defendant; or in the case of a petition, a respondent. Case names are usually given with the plaintiff first, as in Plaintiff v. Defendant.

Complainant may also denote the complaining witness in a criminal proceeding.

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