Types of Civil Actions:


1. A civil or criminal judicial proceeding[1]

     Excerpt from Morris M. Estee’s Estee’s Pleadings, Practice, and Forms (Carter P. Pomeroy ed., 3d ed. 1885):

     “An action has been defined to be an ordinary proceeding in a court of justice, by which one party prosecutes another party for the enforcement or protection of a right, the redress or prevention of a wrong, or the punishment of a public offense. But in some sense this definition is equally applicable to special proceedings. More accurately, it is defined to be any judicial proceeding, which, if conducted to a determination, will result in a judgment or decree. The action is said to terminate at judgment. [2]

     Excerpt from Edwin E. Bryant’s The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure (2d ed. 1399):

     “The terms ‘action’ and ‘suit’ are nearly if not quite synonymous. But lawyers usually speak of proceedings in courts of law as ‘actions,’ and of those in courts of equity as ‘suits.’ In olden time there was a more marked distinction, for an action was considered as terminating when judgment was rendered, the execution forming no part of it. A suit, on the other hand, included the execution. The word ‘suit,’ as used in the Judiciary Act of 1784 and later Federal statutes, applies to any proceeding in a court of justice in which the plaintiff pursues in such court the remedy which the law affords him. [3]

       UCC § 1-201(b)(1) defines “action” as:

      “‘Action’ in the sense of a judicial proceeding includes recoupment, counterclaim, set-off, suit in equity, and any other proceeding in which rights are determined.[4]

civil action:

1. An action brought to enforce, redress, or protect a private or civil right; a noncriminal litigation. — aka (if brought by a private person) private action; (if brought by a government) public action. [1]

     Excerpt from Edwin E. Bryant’s The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure (2d ed. 1899):

     “The code of New York, as originally adopted, declared, ‘the distinctions between actions at law and suits in equity, and the forms of all such actions and heretofore existing, are 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 civil action.’ With slight verbal changes the above provision has been enacted in most of the States and Territories which have adopted the reformed procedure. [5]

suit – any proceeding in a court of law; a broader term than “action” since it is inclusive of all judicial proceedings whether actions or not, however does not include a proceeding in continuation of an original action, such as a proceeding for modification of a decree. — aka lawsuit; suit at law

suit at law:

1. A suit conducted according to the common law or equity, as distinguished from statutory provisions.  *  Under the current rules of practice in federal and most state courts, the term civil action embraces an action both at law and in equity. Fed. R. Civ. P. 2

action at law:

1. A civil suit stating a legal cause of action and seeking only a legal remedy.

legal remedy:

1. A remedy historically available in a court of law, as distinguished from a remedy historically available only in equity.  *  After the merger of law and equity, this distinction remained relevant in some ways, such as in determining the right to jury trial and the choice between alternate remedies.

suit in equity:

1. A civil suit stating an equitable claim and asking for an exclusively equitable remedy. — aka action in equity.

Equitable Remedies – mon-monetary forms of (Injunctive) Relief to help remedy the situation.

      The following types of civil actions give insight into the types of equitable remedies one could request within their civil complaint form:

Types of Civil Actions:

action de in rem verso – an action for unjust enrichment wherein the plaintiff must show that an enrichment was bestowed, that it caused an impoverishment, that there is no justification, and that the plaintiff has no other adequate remedy at law, including no remedy under an express or implied contract.— aka actio de in rem verso.

Personal Action – a legal action brought against a person (“in personam“) for recovery of debt or personal property (goods or chattels) or for damages or other redress for breach of contract or other injuries, but not involving real property; must be brought by the person injured or damages rather than by his personal representative.

Action In Rem – an action wherein the named defendant is real or personal property, to determine who owns the title, and who has rights in such property.

  • Action to Quiet Title – to establish a plaintiff’s title to land by compelling the adverse claimant to establish a claim or be forever estopped from asserting it.
  • Action Quasi In Rem – an action brought against a person, the objective being to deal with the particular property or to subject the property to the discharge of the claims asserted.


Penal Action – a civil action to prove a wrongdoer violated a statute, thereby subjecting the wrongdoer to pay a fine directly to the wronged party in addition to punitive damages.


Actions pertaining to Recovery of Land:

Action of Ejectment – an owner or occupier who was wrongfully ejected recovers possession, damages, & costs.

Action for Mesne Profits – following a successful act of ejectment, a suit brought by a landowner to recover from losses resulted from 1.) the use of the land during the wrongful occupation 2.) the costs of the ejectment.

action of assize:

1. Hist. A real action by which the plaintiff proves title to land merely by showing an ancestor’s possession.  See ASSIZE. 


Good Samaritan Action – brought by a person or group for the benefit of all or part of a community.


Action of Account – violation of fiduciary relation or to recover certain fixed sum of money for business contract breach.

Action of Covenant – to claim damages as a result of breach of contract, deed, or other covenant, to fine someone.

Actions to Recover Money Wrongfully Paid

Trespass On The Case – recover damages which occurred as a consequence for another’s action or inaction such as negligence, fraud, slander, deceit, omissions, etc.

Office Action – a patent examiner’s communication with a patent applicant, usually to state the reasons for denying an application.

action in equity:

1. An action that seeks equitable relief, such as an injunction or specific performance, as opposed to damages.  See suit in equity under SUIT.

action for poinding:

1. Hist. A creditor’s action to obtain sequestration of the land rents and goods of the debtor to satisfy the debt or enforce a distress.

action for the loss of services:

1. A lawsuit by a master for the loss of his servant’s services, filed against a third party who has (it is alleged) wrongfully prevented the provision of those services.

2. A husband’s lawsuit against one who has taken away, imprisoned, or physically harmed his wife in circumstances in which

(1) the act is wrongful to the wife, and
(2) the husband is deprived of her society or services. 
— aka action per quad servitium amisit.


> action of debt. See CONDICTIO.

action of declarator:

1.  Scots law. An action brought in the Court of Session for the purpose of establishing a legal status or right. — aka declarator; action for declaratory.

action of reprobator. See REPROBATOR.

action on expenditure:

1. An action for payment of the principal debt by a personal surety.

action to review judgment:


2. A request for judicial review of a nonjudicial body’s decision, such as an administrative ruling on a workers’-compensation claim.  *  The grounds for review are usually similar to those for a new trial, especially patent errors of law and new evidence.

amicable action. See test caste (1) under CASE (1).


, class action. See CLASS ACTION.

collusive action. (18c) An action between two parties who have no actual controversy, being merely for the purpose of determining a legal question or receiving a precedent that might prove favorable in related litigav

tion. –Also termed jictional action.

pcommon-law action. (18c) An action governed by common law, rather than statutory, equitable, or civil


v criminal action. (16c) An action instituted by the gov-v ernment to punish offenses against the public.

> cross-action. (18c) An action brought by the defendant against the plaintiff based on the same subject matter as the plaintiff’s action. See CROSS-CLAIM.

> derivative action. See DERIVATIVE ACTION. > direct action. See DIRECT ACTION. v fictional action. See collusive action. ‘

fictitious action:

1. An action; usually unethical, brought solely to obtain a judicial opinion on an issue of fact or law, rather than for the disposition of a controversy.

> guardianship action. (1931) Family law. An action brought for the purpose of asking a court to appoint a temporary or permanent guardian to care for property or for a person who is underage or incapacitated. See guardian of the estate 8: guardian of the person under GUARDIAN (1).

>hypothecary action (hI-poth-a-ker-ee). (1815) Roman 6‘ civil law. An action for the enforcement of a mortgage (hypotheca); a lawsuit to enforce a creditor’s claims under a hypothec or hypothecation. — aka actio hypothecaria.


informal action. (1963) Administrative law. An executive-branch action that does not fall under rulemaking or formal adjudication procedures in the Administrw tive Procedure Act. 0 Informal actions are not subject to specific notice and procedural requirements mandated

by the APA for rulemaking and formal adjudications. See ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEDURE ACT.

> innominate action (i-nom-i-nat). (1903) An action that has no special name by which it is known. Cf. nominate action.

> joint action. (17c) 1. An action brought by two or more plaintiffs. 2. An action brought against two or more defendants.

> local action. (18c) An action that can be brought only in the jurisdiction where the cause of action arose, as when

the action‘s subject matter is a piece of real property.

> matrimonial action. (1881) An action relating to the state of marriage, such as an action for separation, annulment, or divorce.

r mixed action. (15c) An action that has some characteristics of both a real action and a personal action.

“In early times the only mixed actions were those for the partition of lands, for which a writ was provided in the common-law courts. The remedy was further enlarged by the statute of 31 Hen. Vll c. 1, and 32 Hen. Vlll c. 32, which gaxe compulsory partition, by writ at common law. These statutes formed the basis of partition in the American States; but in England and here courts of Chancery have

found most convenient, and their procedure most

favorable for the division of estates in land. The statutes

. at the present time, in most of the States, prescribe a prod cedure which is qTite similar to that in e qpuity ractice ” Edwin E. Bry ant, he def o fPleading Undqer the”3 Codes of Civil Procedure 130 11 (d2 ed. 1899).

nominate action:

1. An action that is known by a name, such as a confessory action, a petitory action, or a possessory action.  Cf. innominate action.

nonpersonal action:

1. An action that proceeds within some category of territorial jurisdiction other than in personam — that is, jurisdiction in rem, quasi in rem, or over status.

petitory action:

1. Roman civil law. An action to establish and enforce title to property independently of the right to possession.

2. Civil law. An action for the recognition of ownership or other real right in immovable (or sometimes movable) property.  *  In civil-law systems, the petitory action (revendication) is a much broader and more effective remedy than the reivindicatio, the Roman prototype.  This action is based on, and tends to protect, real rights, that is, ownership and its dismemberments.  It is therefore a real action, distinguishable from personal actions based on (and tending to protect) personal rights.  Generally, the petitory action is available for the protection of the ownership of both movables and immovables.  In Louisiana, however, the petitory action is for the recognition of ownership or other real right in immovable property. brought by a person who is not in possession of it. La. Code Civ. Proc. art. 3651.  An action for the recognition of such a right in movable property is an innominate real action, known as a revendicatory action. — aka petitory suit; petitorium; revendication.

plenary action:

1. A full hearing or trial on the merits, as opposed to a summary proceeding.  Cf. summary proceeding under PROCEEDING.

possessory action:

1. An action to obtain, recover, or maintain possession of property but not title to it, such as an action to evict a nonpaying tenant. — aka possessorium.

     “The possessory action is available for the protection of the possession of corporeal immovables as well as for the protection of the quasi-possession or real rights in immovable property. It is distinguished from the petitory action which is available for the recognition and enforcement of ownership or of real rights in another’s immovable, such as a usufruct, limited personal servitudes, and predial servitudes. A.N. Yiannopoulos, Property: The Law of Things –Real Rights -Real Actions 5 333, at 653 (4th ed. 2001).

action de die in diam:
[Law Latin “from day to day”]

1. An action occurring from day to day; a continuing right of action.

2. An action for trespass for each day that an injury continues. [1]

     Excerpt from R.F.V. Heuston’s Salmond on the Law of Torts (17th ed. 1977):

     “That trespass by way of personal entry is a continuing injury, lasting as long as the personal presence of the wrongdoer, and giving rise to actions de die in diem so long as it lasts, is sufficiently obvious. [10]


Disclaimer: All material throughout this website is pertinent to people everywhere, and is being utilized in accordance with Fair Use.

[1] Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: 1 Morris M. Estee, Estee’s Pleadings, Practice, and Forms 5 3, at 1 (Carter P. Pomeroy ed., 3d ed. 1885).

[3]: Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure 3 (2d ed. 1399).

[4]: UCC § 1-201(b)(1)

[5]: Edwin E. Bryant, The Law of Pleading Under the Codes of Civil Procedure 106 (2d ed. 1899).

[10]: R.F.V. Heuston, Salmond on the Law of Torts 42 (17th ed. 1977).

To be Added:

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931


Intro to U.S. Law

Legal Precepts Adopted (from Europe) into The U.S. Constitution

§ § of Law Embedded into the Constitution Pursuant to the American Revolution

Indian Country Law

Civil Proceedings (Torts) Self-Help

Criminal Proceedings (Crimes) Self-Help

Federal Rules of Procedure

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