Lawyers and Lawsuits


What types of relief do plaintiffs seek?

Most lawsuits seek some type of monetary relief or damages. Plaintiffs often ask for what are known as compensatory damages—to compensate them for the harm that they have suffered. Often plaintiffs will seek attorneys’ fees. This means that the plaintiff wants the court to order the defendant to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

Many statutes (such as civil rights, employment discrimination statutes) are fee-shifting statutes in that they allow a prevailing plaintiff (the plaintiff-litigant who wins the case) to have the defendant pay his or her attorney fees. In cases involving alleged egregious or very bad conduct, a plaintiff may also seek what are known as punitive damages.

In other cases, a plaintiff may seek injunctive or declaratory relief. Injunctive relief means that the plaintiff petitions the court to enjoin (or prohibit) the defendant from engaging in certain conduct. Declaratory relief means that the plaintiff asks the court to declare a certain law, regulation, or policy unconstitutional or void. The key point, however, is that the plaintiff must declare the relief he or she is seeking in the complaint.


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