What is a Civil Law Suit

There are many types of court proceedings in our justice system. They are usually divided into three classes – criminal, civil, and administrative. Each type seeks to address a different kind of issue or complaint. Among the three classifications, civil suits are the most common. Mainly, it is how a person seeks to redress the damage committed by another person against the former.

For instance, George needed money to purchase a vehicle. Because he found the process of loaning money from banks too tedious, he sought the help of another person. George borrowed $20,000 from Kathleen. She loaned George the amount. Based on their loan contract, the amount is payable for five months, amount to $4,000 monthly. For the first few months, George was able to comply with the agreement. However, in the 4th month, he defaulted. Kathleen sent a demand letter to George, asking for the full payment of the entire balance. Upon demand, George refused to pay Kathleen on the ground that the contract specified that the amount should be paid in five monthly installments. Now, there is a dispute between the two parties on whether or not the entire balance is already due and demandable.

The example above is a classic civil suit. In this case, Kathleen and George seek to settle a monetary dispute which came from a loan agreement. Disputes of this kind are civil in nature. It means that the actions or omissions committed by the parties are covered by the civil laws, and not any other laws. Generally, civil suits are those that involve contracts, quasi-contracts, and torts. Monetary awards and enforcement of contracts are the usual subjects of a civil lawsuit.

To differentiate it from criminal suit, a civil suit is usually a suit between persons – whether natural or juridical. A criminal suit, on the other hand, is a suit filed by the State or government against a person for violations of penal laws and statutes. A thief will not be tried under a civil suit for a theft committed even if money is involved. It’s because this act is punishable under criminal laws.

As for the third type, civil suit also differs from administrative suits because the latter refers to cases between state authorities and another person. The core issue in this type of suit is the liability of the person complained of for violations of administrative rules and regulations.

It is equally important to elaborate as well the distinction when it comes to the burden of proof required to prove one’s wrongdoing. In civil cases, the complainant only needs a preponderance of evidence to prove his case. In criminal cases, the guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. In administrative matters, the evidence only needs to be substantial.

The penalty in case the court rules in favor of the complainant also varies. For civil suit, the payment of damages in the form of the monetary award is always the penalty. Aside from the actual damage incurred by the complainant, the court may also awards nominal, moral, and exemplary damages. Whereas in criminal proceedings, the penalty is imprisonment for a period provided by the law.


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