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A lawsuit is an action or a suit brought before a court, as to recover a right, redress a grievance, obtain damages, an injunction or to obtain a declaratory judgment. It usually involves dispute resolution of private law issues between individuals, business entities or non-profit organizations, though in some jurisdictions it may involve public law issues.

Lawsuits in common law jurisdictions

In common law jurisdictions, the lawsuit begins with the issuance of a summons by the clerk of the court chosen by the plaintiff. It may also include a more detailed statement or pleading of the causes of action for which the plaintiff seeks damages or equitable relief.

Usually the papers are drawn by a lawyer, but in many courts a person can file papers and represent themselves, which is called appearing pro se. Many courts have a pro se clerk to assist people without lawyers.

The early stages of the lawsuit involve discovery or the exchange of documents and other evidence between the parties as well as the conducting of depositions. At this point the parties may also engage in pretrial motion practice in order to determine key issues before trial.

Once the case is ready for trial the parties will pick a jury and then have a trial by jury, unless the case involves equitable relief in which case it will be heard only by the judge.

All the procedures that govern the conduct of a lawsuit in the common law adversarial system of dispute resolution are known as civil procedure.