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What Is a Civil Dispute?

A civil dispute is a legal disagreement between two or more principle individuals or organizations.
A civil dispute may arise from the spreading of malicious gossip that causes defamation.
Dispute resolution involves bringing parties together, exploring the issues behind their conflict, and then finding a resolution to those issues that is satisfactory for all parties.
A surgeon who is negligent during surgery may face civil negligence charges.
A civil dispute may occur as a result of cases of libel, which involves the written defamation of a person's character.
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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2015
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A civil dispute is a legal disagreement between two or more principle individuals or organizations. It is distinguished from a criminal dispute in that it does not involve statutory laws and does not require the involvement of the state as a principle party. A civil dispute usually involves tort, contract, or probate laws and is resolved by the court through the awarding of compensation, usually in the form of financial damages.

There are many different kinds of civil disputes. When a person violates a civil duty to another, such as a doctor guilty of negligence toward a patient, the civil dispute is usually called a tort. Torts include issues such as malpractice, negligence, personal injury, defamation, or workplace safety. This large branch of civil law is an extremely common source of legal disputes. Tort disputes may involve two individuals, an individual and an organization, or two organizations. In managing tort disputes, a judge must determine if the defendant had a civil duty to the plaintiff, if the duty was breached, and if the damage done to the plaintiff that resulted directly from the breach of duty can be measured in terms of compensation.

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Another common type of civil dispute is over the terms and conditions of contracts. In most regions, a contract constitutes a legally enforceable agreement; if one side can't or won't meet the terms he or she agreed to, it is up to the court to handle the enforcement. In a civil dispute over contracts, the issues before the court may include whether the contract was valid to begin with, if a violation has indeed occurred, and whether the violation merits compensation. Landlord/tenant disputes, business agreements, and employer/employee issues are common types of civil contract lawsuits.

Legal documents of all kinds are often the source of civil disputes. The management and distribution process of an estate following the owner's death can be a breeding ground for lawsuits and counter-suits among grieving and squabbling relatives. The surest way to guard against civil disputes over legal documents is to read all documentation carefully and involve attorneys in every step of a documentation process. Even then, guarantees against civil lawsuits are not always possible.

In criminal law, the state charges a person with violating statutes that harm the public; in civil disputes, however, government offices can still be involved. Many regions give citizens the right to sue the government for violating their own laws, such as over issues of constitutionality. When a case has a name such as Joe Schmoe v. State of Delaware it indicates that the civil dispute involves an individual against the state. The right to bring a civil dispute against the government is considered an inalienable right in some regions, while in others it is not permitted.

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Soulfox
Post 3

@Logicfest -- You want complicated? Take an eviction case. You've got a landlord asking for something other than money because he wants a tenant booted out on the street. So, that sounds like equity. Then, the landlord wants his past due rent. That sounds like an action based in law.

Oh, and in most states the whole eviction process is governed by statute.

Head hurt yet?

Logicfest
Post 2

@Markerrag -- You do have some statutes involved at times. The whole concept is kind of complicated. Some causes of action are based on statutory definitions and some are not.

And then, of course, you've got the matters of law vs. equity. Civil cases at law are ones in which people are asking for money (just think of someone who has been injured in a car crash, for example). Equity cases are ones in which someone is asking for something other than relief (a divorce, for example).

When it comes to laws, courts and what is what, things get complicated in a hurry. That's why lawyers exist to help navigate people through the complexities of it all.

Markerrag
Post 1

I always thought a civil dispute was any kind of court case that was not criminal. Divorce, breach of contract, torts and even probate issues can be considered civil actions.

Also, aren't there often statutes involved? If we are talking about breach of contract, for example, you do have statutes in various states determining what a contract is and those statutes are used to determine if a contract has been breached, if attorney's fees can be awarded, etc.

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