Plaintiff or Petitioner, Defendant or Respondent?

By Jedidiah McKeehan

Two legal terms that you hear often are Plaintiff and Defendant.  The Plaintiff and the Defendant are the parties involved in a lawsuit.  The Plaintiff is the one bringing the lawsuit and the Defendant is the one being sued and is defending the lawsuit.  The Defendant has the ability to file a counter-complaint against the Plaintiff.  If that happens, the Plaintiff becomes the Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant and the Defendant becomes the Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.

The parties can also sue other parties.  If there are multiple Defendants and they sue each other, they can become Defendants/Cross-Plaintiffs and Defendants/Cross-Defendants.  The Defendants can also sue other individuals and those new people become Third-Party Defendants.  As litigation continues, the designations of the parties can adapt and can take on bizarre changes with multiple designations.

Two other legal terms you may have heard are Petitioner and Respondent.  Is there any difference between Plaintiff and Petitioner and Defendant and Respondent?  No, not really.  Normally you will hear Petitioner and Respondent used more in juvenile court and custody cases, but the terms are essentially interchangeable.  The Respondent can file a Counter-Petition and the parties can become the Respondent/Counter-Petitioner and the Petitioner/Counter-Respondent, similar to if they were initially called the Plaintiff and the Defendant.

 

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, divorce, custody, personal injury, landlord-tenant, civil litigation and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.

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