Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    An action seeking recompense for the violation of a private right.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    In the civil law. A personal action which is instituted to compel payment, or the doing some other thing which is purely civil. At common law. As distinguished from a criminal action, it is one which seeks the establishment, recovery, or redress of private and civil rights. Civil suits relate to and affect, as to the parties against whom they are brought, only individual rights which are within their individual control, and which they may part with at their pleasure. The design of such suits is the enforcement of merely private obligations and duties. Criminal prosecutions, on the other hand, involve public wrongs, or a breach and violation of public rights and duties, which affect the whole community, considered as such in its social and aggregate capacity. The end they have in view is the prevention of similar offenses, not atonement or expiation for crime committed. Cancemi v. People, 18 N. Y. 128. Civil cases are those which involve disputes or contests between man and man, and which only terminate in the adjustment of the rights of plaintiffs and defendants. They include ali cases which cannot legally be denominated "criminal cases." Fenstennacher v. State, 19 Or. 504, 25 Pac. 142. In code practice. A civil action is a proceeding in a court of justice in which one party, known as the "plaintiff," demands against another party, known as the "defendant," the enforcement or protection of a private right, or the prevention or redress of a private wrong. It may also be brought for the recovery of a penalty or forfeiture. Rev. Code Iowa 1880, § 2505. The distinction between actions at law and suits in equity, and the forms of ali such actions and suits, heretofore existing, is abolished; and there shall be in this state, hereafter, but one form of action for the enforcement or protection of private rights and the redress of private wrongs, which shall be denominated a "civll action." N. Y. § 69.