Complaint

A written statement that begins a civil lawsuit, in which the plaintiff details the claims against the defendant.

Lawyer Advertising Toll Free Numbers

Additional Sources

Answers.com

The presentation by the plaintiff in a civil action, setting forth the claim on which relief is sought.

A formal charge, made under oath, of the commission of a crime or other such offense.

Encyclopedia Britannica

In law, the plaintiff’s initial pleading, corresponding to the libel in admiralty, the bill in equity, and the claim in civil law. The complaint, called in common law a declaration, consists of a title, a statement showing venue or jurisdiction, one or more counts containing a brief formal exposition of facts giving rise to the claim asserted, and a demand for relief. Thus, it informs the defendant of the plaintiff’s claim and initiates the pretrial process of narrowing the case to one or more sharply defined issues of law or fact. In common law and under early procedural codes, the task of defining the issues was performed solely by the pleadings, but modern procedural systems have added pretrial conferences and deposition and discovery procedures for this purpose.

FindLaw

The initial pleading that starts a lawsuit and that sets forth the allegations made by the plaintiff against the defendant and the plaintiff's demand for relief.

A document sworn to by a victim or police officer that sets forth a criminal violation and that serves as the charging instrument by which charges are filed and judicial proceedings commenced against a defendant in a magistrate's court.

Law.com Dictionary

The first document filed with the court (actually with the County Clerk or Clerk of the Court) by a person or entity claiming legal rights against another. The party filing the complaint is usually called the plaintiff and the party against whom the complaint is filed is called the defendant or defendants. Complaints are pleadings and must be drafted carefully (usually by an attorney) to properly state the factual as well as legal basis for the claim, although some states have approved complaint forms which can be filled in by an individual. A complaint also must follow statutory requirements as to form. For example, a complaint must be typed on a specific type of paper or on forms approved by the courts, name both the party making the claim and all defendants, and should state what damages or performance is demanded (the prayer). When the complaint is filed, the court clerk will issue a summons, which gives the name and file number of the lawsuit and the address of the attorney filing the complaint, and instructs the defendant that he/she/it has a specific time to file an answer or other response. A copy of the complaint and the summons must be served on a defendant before a response is required. Under a unique statute, New York allows a summons to be served without a complaint. A complaint filing must be accompanied by a filing fee payable to the court clerk, unless a waiver based on poverty is obtained.

Lect Law Library

In a civil action, the document that initiates a lawsuit. The complaint outlines the alleged facts of the case and the basis for which a legal remedy is sought. In a criminal action, a complaint is the preliminary charge filed by the complaining party, usually with the police or a court.

The complaint is the first court paper filed in a lawsuit. It briefly states the plaintiff's view of the crux of the legal dispute and asks the court to resolve the dispute. In some types of cases and in certain states, a complaint is called a petition or a libel.

Legal-Dictionary.org

The document that begins a court action. In a civil case it is filed with the court and outlines the grievance alleged and the remedy sought. In a criminal case it is filed with the court or police, and represents the preliminary charges in the case.

The Free (Legal) Dictionary

A civil complaint initiates a civil lawsuit by setting forth for the court a claim for relief from damages caused, or wrongful conduct engaged in, by the defendant. The complaint outlines all of the plaintiff's theories of relief, or causes of action (e.g., Negligence, Battery, assault), and the facts supporting each Cause of Action. The complaint also serves as notice to the defendant that legal action is underway. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern construction of complaints filed in federal courts. Many state courts follow the same rules as the federal courts, or similar rules.

The caption opens the complaint and identifies the location of the action, the court, the docket or file number, and the title of the action. Each party to the lawsuit must be identified in the caption and must be a real party in interest, that is, either a person who has been injured or harmed in some way, or a person accused of causing the injury or harm. In addition, a party must have the capacity to sue or to be sued. If a party lacks capacity owing to mental incompetence, for example, the suit may be dismissed. Any number of parties may be named and joined in a single lawsuit as long as all meet the requirements of capacity and all are real parties in interest.

Courts of limited–subject matter jurisdiction, such as federal courts, require the complaint to demonstrate that the court has jurisdiction to hear the case. In general-jurisdiction courts, such as most state courts, a jurisdictional allegation is unnecessary.

The most critical part of the complaint is the claim, or cause of action. The claim is a concise and direct statement of the basis upon which the plaintiff seeks relief. It sets forth the Rule of Law that forms the basis of the lawsuit and recounts the facts that support the rule of law. Finally, the claim concludes that the defendant violated the rule of law, thereby causing the plaintiff's injuries or damages, and that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. For example: A negligence claim might begin with a statement that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; that the defendant breached that duty; and that, as a result, the plaintiff suffered injuries or other damages. The conclusion then states that because the defendant's breach was the cause of the plaintiff's injuries, the plaintiff is entitled to compensation from the defendant.