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Parties

The Capacity To Sue Or Be Sued

A person must have the requisite legal capacity to be a party to a lawsuit. Some people are considered non sui juris: they do not possess full civil and social rights under the law. A child is non sui juris because the law seeks to protect the child from his or her improvidence until the child reaches the age of majority. A child who has not reached the age of majority has a legal disability. Others who suffer a similar legal disability include mentally ill persons, mentally retarded persons, and persons who are judged mentally incompetent because of illness, age, or infirmity. Legal disability does not mean, however, that persons in these categories are removed from civil actions. The claims or defenses of a person who is non sui juris usually can be asserted by a legal representative, such as a parent, guardian, trustee, or executor.

Prisoners also have limited rights as parties to civil actions. They can appeal their convictions and bring HABEAS CORPUS petitions to challenge the validity of their incarceration. They can file prisoners' rights cases for a violation of their federally protected CIVIL RIGHTS. Some states permit prisoners to defend themselves in an action that threatens them with FORFEITURE of their property, but most states will not permit prisoners to start a civil lawsuit against any other party during the period of incarceration. Convicted felons or prisoners given life sentences may suffer what is called civil death, a total loss of rights, including the right to be a party in a lawsuit.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Ordinary resolution to Patients' Rights - ConsentParties - Parties In Lawsuits, Parties As Adversaries, Legal Entities That Can Be Parties, The Capacity To Sue Or Be Sued