Civil Actions

Civil actions are normally cases between private persons or corporations to resolve disputes involving the break-up of a family or domestic relationship or the breach of a legal duty owed by one party to another and to fix damages for loss caused by the breach, or to fashion a remedy to prevent future loss.

The most common civil actions deal with:

  • divorce and family matters,
  • breaches of contract,
  • negligently caused personal injury and property damage,
  • debt collection,
  • landlord-tenant disputes, and
  • protection from abuse.

The State (or any other governmental body) may be a party to a civil action, if its interests have been injured, or if the case is one in which the Legislature has provided that the body may be sued by a citizen for causing injury.

If you are bringing a civil action, you must prove your case against the party you are suing by a preponderance of the evidence-- a lesser standard of proof than that which the State must meet in a criminal case. In some civil cases, you must prove your case by clear and convincing evidence which is a more stringent standard than a preponderance standard.

You must have good grounds to bring a suit. If you file a suit frivolously or to harass a person, the court may assess a monetary penalty against you or your attorney.

In civil actions the Superior Court has jurisdiction in cases seeking money damages. This means that, in such cases, the plaintiff can choose between District and Superior Court. If the plaintiff wishes to exercise a right to jury trial or prefers the location or some other feature of the Superior Court, the case may be brought in that court. There are also some actions where the plaintiff seeks something other than a simple money judgment, for example, an injunction. Many of these actions may only be brought in Superior Court.