Standing to Sue - Explained
Requirements for Bringing a Legal Action
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What is Standing to Sue in a Civil Trial?
Standing is the requirement that a person have a legally recognizable interest in a dispute before the court.
In summary, to seek redress before the court, a person must suffer a loss or harm caused by the defendant(s).
Next Article: Venue for a Civil Trial Return to: CIVIL LITIGATION
Why is Standing required in a civil trial?
This rule seeks to ascertain that there is indeed an adversarial relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant. To have standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate two things to the court:
- Legal Wrong - The complaint, as written, must demonstrate a legal controversy. That is, there must be a legal wrong that took place. A legal wrong is an action that is prohibited by law and, if proven, may allow the plaintiff redress.
- Personal Stake - The plaintiff must show that she has a personal stake in the dispute or controversy with the named defendant. This means that she must be the one wronged. For example, a plaintiff cannot generally sue someone for harming another person who is not closely related to her. While she may be negatively affected, she is not the individual directly suffering the harm. Her harm is incidental.
Standing does not depend upon the validity or merits of the case. It only depends upon the relationship and nature of the controversy between the parties.
Standing is determined at the time of filing the action. It does not matter if the plaintiff suffers harm at some time well after the dispute arises.
She must have suffered the harm prior to the commencement of the action.
Relevant Cases on Standing
From Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U.S. 393 (1975),
It is axiomatic that Art. III of the Constitution imposes a "threshold requirement . . . that those who seek to invoke the power of federal courts must allege an actual case or controversy." O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493; To satisfy the requirement, plaintiffs must allege "some threatened or actual injury," Linda R. S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 617, that is "real and immediate" and not conjectural or hypothetical. Golden v. Zwickler, 394 U.S. 103, 108-109. Furthermore, and of greatest relevance here: "The fundamental aspect of standing is that it focuses on the party seeking to get his complaint before a federal court and not on the issues he wishes to have adjudicated.
During the economic meltdown of 2007, many people suffered financially as a result of the actions of others. Should those generally affected by the poor economy be able to sue those who played a major role in the downturn? Would granting standing to such people open the court to an unmanageable flood of cases?
- This begs the question of how directly someone must be affected in order to bring a legal action and have standing. Generally, standing requires some degree of directness in the harm. Someone generally affected by the poor economy would not be able to demonstrate standing. This question remains, should they have standing?
Angel is a big fan of Kim, a professional celebrity. Ryanne is a musician and celebrity who speaks ill of Kim on social media. Angel is so offended by Ryannes conduct that she initiates a lawsuit against her for defamation. What is Ryanne's primary defense against Angel's action?
- The defense of Ryanne would be that Angel does not have the legal standing to institute the case before the court. Angel does not have a personal stake in the case, as the defamation at issues does not relate to her. In this scenario, the person who would have the legal standing to bring the suit to court would be Kim, since he is personally affected (i.e., has a personal stake in the case).
- Civil Litigation Procedure (Intro)
- What is a civil lawsuit or civil action?
- Who are the parties to a lawsuit?
- What is standing to sue?
- What is personal jurisdiction?
- What is a class action?
- What are the pleadings?
- What is discovery?
- What is the scope of discovery?
- What are motions and how are they used?
- What is the process of selecting a jury?
- What are the steps involved in a civil trial?
- What is the burden of proof in a civil trial?
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages
- What is res judicata