Individual Or Derivative Lawsuits?

Aug 5, 2019

Understanding Shareholder Disputes and Lawsuits

Shareholder disputes can arise in any company, and when conflicts become unresolvable through internal means, legal action may be necessary. Two common types of lawsuits in shareholder disputes are individual lawsuits and derivative lawsuits.

Individual Lawsuits

Individual lawsuits are filed by shareholders personally against the company, its directors, or other shareholders. These lawsuits typically deal with specific claims related to a shareholder's rights or interests, such as breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, or corporate mismanagement.

When shareholders believe that their individual rights have been violated, they can initiate individual lawsuits to seek compensation or specific remedies. These lawsuits focus on the individual shareholder's direct interests rather than the overall interests of the company.

Derivative Lawsuits

Derivative lawsuits, on the other hand, are brought by shareholders on behalf of the company itself. These lawsuits are based on the theory that the harm caused is to the company, and the shareholders are acting as the company's representatives seeking to protect its best interests.

Derivative lawsuits are typically filed when shareholders believe that the company's directors or officers have breached their fiduciary duties, engaged in self-dealing, or caused harm to the company through their actions or lack thereof. The goal of derivative lawsuits is to hold those responsible accountable and ensure proper corporate governance in the company.

Key Differences Between Individual and Derivative Lawsuits

While both individual and derivative lawsuits deal with shareholder disputes, they differ in important aspects:

1. Nature of the Lawsuit

In individual lawsuits, the focus is on the specific actions or harm experienced by the shareholder. These lawsuits seek to protect individual rights and interests. On the other hand, derivative lawsuits aim to protect the company's interests and hold its representatives accountable.

2. Parties Involved

In individual lawsuits, the parties involved are often the shareholder and the defendants, which can include the company, its officers, directors, or other shareholders. In derivative lawsuits, the parties are typically the shareholder(s) acting on behalf of the company and the defendants are primarily the directors or officers.

3. Ownership Interests

Individual lawsuits primarily focus on the shareholder's ownership interests in the company. Derivative lawsuits, however, relate to the company as a whole and its overall well-being.

4. Decision-Making Authority

In individual lawsuits, the shareholder retains the decision-making authority and controls the litigation process. In derivative lawsuits, decisions are made collectively by the shareholders as they represent the company's best interests and are subject to court approval.

Which Lawsuit is Appropriate for You?

Choosing the appropriate type of lawsuit depends on the specifics of your situation. Consulting with an experienced attorney specializing in shareholder disputes and corporate law is crucial for determining the best course of action.

If you believe your individual rights as a shareholder have been violated, an individual lawsuit may be the most suitable option. Conversely, if you suspect harm has been done to the company in which you hold shares, a derivative lawsuit may be more appropriate.

Working closely with legal professionals can help you navigate the complex world of shareholder disputes and ensure you choose the right approach to protect your interests.


Individual and derivative lawsuits play essential roles in addressing shareholder disputes and holding those responsible accountable. Understanding the differences between these two types of lawsuits is crucial for shareholders who find themselves in contentious situations.

At Baytowne Reporting, we understand the complexities associated with shareholder disputes. Our team of experienced professionals is committed to providing high-quality court reporting services for all legal matters. Contact us today for expert assistance in your shareholder disputes and legal proceedings.