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Legal Dictionary

complaint

Legal Definition of complaint

Noun

  1. The first paper setting forth the plaintiff's cause of action

Definition of complaint

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /kʌmˈpleɪnt/, SAMPA: /kVm"pleInt/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Rhymes: -eɪnt

Etymology

    Middle English compleynte < Anglo-Norman compleint, from compleindre.

Noun

complaint (plural complaints)

  1. (law) In a civil action, the first pleading of the plaintiff setting out the facts on which the claim is based;
    The purpose is to give notice to the adversary of the nature and basis of the claim asserted.
  2. (law) In criminal law, the preliminary charge or accusation made by one person against another to the appropriate court or officer, usually a magistrate.
    However, court proceedings, such as a trial, cannot be instituted until an indictment or information has been handed down against the defendant.
  3. a grievance, problem, difficulty, or concern; the act of complaining

    I have no complaints about the quality of his work, but I don't enjoy his company.

Further reading

In legal terminology, a complaint is a formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons (see: cause of action) that the filing party or parties (the plaintiff(s)) believes are sufficient to support a claim against the party or parties against whom the claim is brought (the defendant(s)) that entitles the plaintiff(s) to a remedy (either money damages or injunctive relief). For example, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that govern civil litigation in United States courts provide that a civil action is commenced with the filing or service of a pleading called a complaint. Civil court rules in states that have incorporated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure use the same term for the same pleading.

In some jurisdictions, specific types of criminal cases may also be commenced by the filing of a complaint, also sometimes called a criminal complaint or felony complaint. All criminal cases are prosecuted in the name of the governmental authority that promulgates criminal statutes and enforces the police power of the state with the goal of seeking criminal sanctions, such as the State (also sometimes called the People) or Crown (in Commonwealth realms). In the United States, the complaint is often associated with misdemeanor criminal charges presented by the prosecutor without the grand jury process. In most U.S. jurisdictions, the charging instrument presented to and authorized by a grand jury is referred to as an indictment.

United States

Virtually every U.S. state has some forms available on web for most common complaints for lawyers and self-representing litigants; if a petitioner cannot find an appropriate form in his state, he often can modify a form from another state to fit his request. Several United States federal courts published general guidelines for the petitioners and Civil Rights complaint forms.

After the complaint has been filed with court, it has to be properly served to the opposite parties, but usually petitioners are not allowed to serve the complaint personally. The defendants have limited time to respond, depending on the State or Federal rules. A defendant's failure to answer to a complaint can result in a default judgment in favor of the petitioner.

For example, in United States federal courts, any person who is at least 18 years old and not a party may serve a summons and complaint in a civil case. The defendant must submit an answer within 21 days after being served with the summons and complaint, or request a waiver, according to FRCP Rule 12. After the civil complaint was served to the defendants, plaintiff must as soon as practicable initiate a conference between the parties to plan for the rest of the discovery process.

In many U.S. jurisdictions, a complaint submitted to a court must be accompanied by a Case Information Statement, which sets forth specific key information about the case and the lawyers representing the parties. This allows the judge to make determinations about which deadlines to set for different phases of the case, as it moves through the court system.

There are also freely accessible web search engines to assist parties in finding court decisions that can be cited in the complaint as an example or analogy to resolve similar questions of law. Google Scholar is the biggest database of full text state and federal courts decisions that can be accessed without charge. These web search engines often allow one to select specific state courts to search.

Federal courts created the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to obtain case and docket information from the United States district courts, United States courts of appeals, and United States bankruptcy courts. The system is managed by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts; it allows lawyers and self-represented clients to obtain documents entered in the case much faster than regular mail.

Australia and United Kingdom

In some countries, (for example Australia and the UK and many countries of the European Community), the making of consumer complaints, particularly regarding the sale of financial services, is governed by statute. The statutory authority may require companies to reply to complaints within set time limits, publish written procedures for handling customer dissatisfaction and provide information about arbitration schemes.

References:

  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.



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