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Definition of Defendant

The term defendant is the name for the person who is being sued in a civil case or charged with a crime in a criminal prosecution. In arbitration the term defendant and respondent are synonymous. The defendant does not have to prove their case; this must be done by the plaintiff.

An individual becomes a defendant in a tort case after a plaintiff files a complaint with the court and notifies the defendant. Cases may be decided against a defendant if they refuse to answer the complaint, in which case the court will make a default judgment against them, or they take the case to court and lose.

Civil cases may allow for both parties in the complaint to receive compensation for their losses under some systems of compensation allocation. For instance, some states allow compensation to be awarded using a comparative negligence system which determines both parties level of negligence and divides the compensation accordingly.

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