Cornell University's Legal Information Institute states litigation is "the process of resolving disputes by filing or answering a complaint through the public court system." Different types of litigation are acted upon using different sets of federal rules, state rules and rules individual to judges.
Litigation is broadly divided into civil and criminal law. Each case has at least one plaintiff bringing the case and at least one defendant being accused. In criminal law, the government brings the case against the defendant, and the intent is to punish a person who committed a crime. In civil law, the government may bring the case, but more often a private citizen or entity brings a case against another private citizen or entity. FindLaw states that the intent of a civil case is to seek redress when the defendant fails to fulfill a legal duty owed to the plaintiff.