Difference Between Plaintiff and Defendant

Simeon Samson, a 43-year-old man from Ogun, was brought before an Ota Magistrate's Court on Tuesday on charges of using counterfeit money.

Plaintiff is the initiating entity in a lawsuit. This person or entity asserts that they have endured harm or damage due to the defendant’s actions or inactions and seeks a legal remedy, typically monetary compensation. The main difference between a plaintiff and a defendant is their respective positions in a court proceeding.

The defendant, on the other hand, is charged with causing the injury or damage. Essentially, they are ‘defending’ themselves against the plaintiff’s allegations. They may argue that they are not liable for the plaintiff’s injury or that the harm did not occur.

In a court case, the burden of proof rests with the plaintiff. This means they must present sufficient evidence to convince the court of their allegations’ veracity. In the meantime, the defendant presents their evidence and arguments to cast doubt on the plaintiff’s claims. The critical difference between the plaintiff and the defendant in a lawsuit is their respective positions: the plaintiff asserts and seeks to prove a claim. In contrast, the defendant counters and refutes it.

Who is a Plaintiff?

The person or group who starts a case in a court of law is called the “plaintiff.” They are sometimes called the complainant or petitioner, especially in family law matters or some places. The plaintiff files a lawsuit against the defendant, the other side in the case, saying that the defendant hurt or wronged them.

The plaintiff is the one who has to make a claim and show proof to back up their claim. This could mean giving testimonies, documents, or other evidence that shows the defendant is at fault or liable. The plaintiff has the burden of proof, which means they must show the court that their claims are valid with more than half of the evidence.

In civil lawsuits, the plaintiff usually wants a legal remedy, often in monetary damages, to compensate for the harm or loss they have experienced. If it’s a class-action suit, the plaintiff could be an individual, a company, the government, or a group of people. Procedure rules and laws, which vary by state, spell out what the plaintiff can and can’t do.

Who is a Defendant?

In a court of law, the person or group being sued is called the “defendant.” They are the ones who are being blamed for causing harm or damage through their actions or inactions. The person who starts the case called the “plaintiff,” says that the defendant did something wrong that needs to be remedied.

In a court case, the defendant must disprove the plaintiff’s claims or show that they did not cause the claimed harm. They give their defence, which may include proof and testimonies to counter the plaintiff’s claim and raise a reasonable doubt about their liability.

In a criminal case, the defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty, and it is up to the prosecution to show their guilt. In legal matters, however, if the defendant raises certain defences, they may also have to prove their case. If a defendant is found to be responsible in a civil suit or guilty in a criminal case, they may have to pay fines or go to jail. Just like plaintiffs, defendants can be individuals, businesses, or the government, based on the case.

Difference Between Plaintiff and Defendant

The core difference between a plaintiff and a defendant lies in their roles in a legal case. The plaintiff is the party who initiates the lawsuit, alleging harm or damage caused by the defendant. They carry the burden of proof, meaning they must provide sufficient evidence to support their claim. Conversely, the defendant is the party accused of causing the harm. Their role is to refute these allegations by disproving the plaintiff’s claim or demonstrating they aren’t responsible for the alleged damage. Essentially, the plaintiff claims while the defendant defends against it. Underneath, we have highlighted the core differences between a plaintiff and a defendant.

Initiation of Case

The plaintiff initiates the lawsuit, whereas the defendant responds to it.

Burden of Proof

The plaintiff bears the burden of proof to establish their claim. The defendant, however, must provide evidence only if they raise specific defences.

Claim of Harm

The plaintiff alleges harm or damage, asserting that the defendant caused it. The defendant contests this claim.

Role in Court

The plaintiff presents their case first, while the defendant responds to the plaintiff’s case.

Legal Remedy

The plaintiff seeks a legal remedy (often monetary compensation) for the alleged harm. The defendant aims to prevent or minimize this outcome.


The plaintiff is in the position of making accusations, while the defendant is defending against these accusations.

Potential Consequences

The plaintiff risks losing the case and bearing the costs of the litigation. The defendant risks being held liable for the plaintiff’s claim and facing potential penalties, including paying damages or legal sanctions.

Post-Trial Motions

Post-trial, the losing plaintiff may seek a new trial or appeal. If found liable or guilty, the defendant may appeal the decision or the severity of the sentence.