Plantiff Definition

The "Legal-Ease" Glossary

Also known as a “complainant,” this is a person who brings a case against another person or entity in a court of law. The plaintiff is the person who seeks justice by initiating a lawsuit. If your small business is sued, the plaintiff is the person doing the suing; you would be the defendant.

Often times in civil lawsuits, the burden of proof falls on the plaintiff. Usually, this means in order to win their case, they must demonstrate…

  • The defendant committed an act of negligence.
  • That negligence caused the plaintiff to suffer an injury (e.g., bodily harm or financial loss).

To prove that first point, the plaintiff’s attorneys must show that the defendant has a legal responsibility to uphold and that the defendant failed to do so. If that is the case, the defendant may be held legally liable for the wrong and be ordered to pay for the damages.

For example, let’s say you own a small photography studio. You specialize in pet portraits, and from all around the country, clients bring their Pomeranians to your door to commit their fluffy exuberance to film. But during one session, something goes terribly wrong. A client brings in Petunia, and you perch the tiny Pom on a stool four feet off the ground in pursuit of a majestic shot. But when Petunia hears her name, she falls from the stool and breaks her little leg. You’re in for a lawsuit.

Petunia’s owner, the plaintiff, sues your photography business, citing professional negligence. Because you have a reputation for being a top-notch pet photographer, the plaintiff alleges you should have reasonably known that perching Petunia on that stool could endanger the pooch. The lawsuit states you had a duty to protect your client’s dog from injury during the shoot and any client would expect as much.

As far as proving that the damages stemmed from your negligence, the plaintiff simply produces the vet bills for the broken leg and subsequent amputation.

Luckily, Professional Liability Insurance can cover the legal expenses when such a lawsuit happens. Even if the lawsuit is frivolous and you’re not held liable, your coverage can still pay for your legal defense fees, which can be significant all the same.

You can learn more about the process of being sued in the blog post “Your Business Is Facing a Civil Lawsuit. Now What?


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