Last edited 07 Nov 2019

Legal action

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Legal action is taken when a party brings judicial proceedings (sometimes called 'court action') against another party who is deemed to have committed a criminal action or a civil wrong. Legal action is sometimes referred to in common parlance as ‘taking someone to court’ or ‘suing’ somebody. The phrase ‘see you in court’ is a common threat implying that legal action may be imminent.

The party instigating legal action (the plaintiff) is said to be ‘prosecuting’ the other party, which may be for reasons including:

  • To settle a disagreement.
  • Pursuing a transgression or a wrong done.
  • Preventing an action perceived to be wrong.
  • Protecting a right.

When legal action is taken, it necessarily involves exercising a nation’s laws, whether legislation or case law, and may involve the use of a lawyer or a court as a means to settle the dispute or disagreement.

Legal action can be an expensive process for both the plaintiff and the defendant. Solicitors and barristers typically charge high fees, and court costs are also involved. Whoever loses the case may be ordered to pay their own costs and those of the other party.

Disputes are very common on construction projects, and can lead to expensive and time consuming court cases, as well as the break down of relationships between the parties involved - who may still need a working relationship to complete the project.

For more information see: Causes of construction disputes.

As a result, construction contracts commonly include provision for alternative dispute resolution techniques such as adjudication, arbitration, mediation and so on, which are considered to be less confrontational, and can be faster and cheaper.

The construction sector is also subject to statutory schemes which impose adjudication procedures in the absence of contractual agreement (such as the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009).

For more information see: Alternative dispute resolution.

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