Glossary of Legal Terms

Below is a complete list of the most commonly used legal terms and legal phrases that are used. Please feel free to use our database in order to locate various definitions.

The glossary of legal terms that are commonly used are below: Please click on the letter below that corresponds with the word you are looking for.



Abatement: to remove. diminish, or reduce;

Abrogate: violate, cancel out, destroy, revoke, void out;

Abscond: used when vanishing away, to travel covertly in secret, out of the court’s jurisdiction to improperly leave steal property and run away;

Abstention: when one court won’t exercise jurisdiction and instead defers to a different court – to take under submission pending what is determined by lower court;

Abuse of Discretion: legal standard applied by courts of appeal to review whether or not the discretion of the trial court, administrative agencies and other entities exceeded the power the trial court had when it ruled;

Abuse of Process: the improper use of the legal process for an improper purpose

Acceleration: to quicken, speed up, to hasten

Accord: legal word for an agreement between two or more parties

Accrue: to build up, or to accumulate, collect up, come into being. Such as a legal right or cause of action coming into existence as a court enforceable legal right of claim

Action (At Law): a legal right whereby one party prosecutes another for a wrong

Actionable: giving rise to a cause of action

Actionable Tort: the failure to perform a legal duty created by statute or common law owed by one party to another which such failure results in injury

Act of God: forces of nature which are impossible to predict

Actual Damages: losses which are proven to have incurred as a result of the wrongful act of another

Ad Damnum: (lat.) the amount of damages demanded normally in the context of a lawsuit

Additur: an increase by the court in the amount of damages awarded by the jury

Adjourn: to suspend; to delay a court proceeding through recess

Adjudication: a determination of the controversy and a pronouncement of a judgment based on evidence presented

Ad Litem: (lat.) for the lawsuit

Admiralty and Maritime Jurisdiction: jurisdiction over actions related to events occurring on navigable waters

Admission: voluntary acknowledgment that certain facts do exist or are true

Alienation of Affections: a tort based upon willful, malicious or intentional interference of a marriage relation by a third party

Alter Ego: (lat.) the other self. Under this legal doctrine, the law will disregard the personal liability an individual has as a result of the existence a corporate entity and will regard an act as the act of the individual rather than solely the act of the corporation

American Bar Association (A.B.A.): a national organization of lawyers and law students

Amicus Curiae: (lat.) a friend of the court

Annotation: citing a particular case of statute

Annuity: a contract that provides for the payment of a fixed sum usually over a period of time, and often utilized to fund a structured settlement

Annul: to make void, to do away with

Appeal: A challenge to a higher court by one party who believes error was made in the admission or presentation of evidence at trial

Arizona Superior Court: This is the court where civil claims and most felony criminal cases are assigned in Arizona

Arizona Court of Appeals: One step above the Superior Court; the Court of Appeals exists for “Appeals”, to review challenges to something that happened at the Superior Court proceedings

Arizona Supreme Court: The highest level of court in Arizona.  The Supreme Court exists to review decisions of the Court of Appeals.

Answer: the court papers filed on behalf of the defendant in response to plaintiff’s complaint

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Bailiff: a court attendant

Barrister: in England, one of two classes of legal practitioners; an English trial lawyer

Battery: an intentional or unlawful application of force to the person of another; an unlawful touching

Bench Trial: a trial in which the court determines the facts without a jury; trial by judge

Best Evidence Rule: rule of the law of evidence requiring the original writing, recording, or photograph

Burden of Proof: the burden that rests with each party to the litigation to convince the jury in a jury trial or the judge in a bench trial of that party’s case

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Casualty Loss: a loss of property due to fire, storm, or other casualty

Cause of Action: the existence of particular facts and law that create a right sufficient to merit judicial action

Cautionary Instruction: judge’s charge to a jury telling them not to allow any outside matter to influence their verdict

Caveat: (lat.) warning or caution

Cease and Desist Order: a court order prohibiting the person or entity to which it is directed from undertaking or continuing a particular activity or course of conduct

Circuit Court: one of several courts in a given jurisdiction; a part of a system of courts

Circumstantial Evidence: indirect evidence of a fact; evidence that indirectl
y suggests proof of a fact

Citation: a reference to a book or other source of legal authority

Civil Action: a legal proceeding brought to protect a civil right created by common law or statute

Civil Law: law concerned with non criminal matters

Civil Liability: liability for actions seeking enforcement of personal rights

Class Action: a lawsuit brought by a representative member on behalf of a large group of persons or members of the group

Clayton Act: prohibits price fixing and other types of discrimination

Clean Hands: the doctrine that requires that a person who seeks equitable relief must not himself have committed any impropriety with respect to the transaction

Clear and Convincing: standard of proof; evidence greater than mere preponderance

Common Law: the system of jurisprudence which is based on judicial precedent rather than statutory laws and comprises the largest body of law in the United States

Comparative Negligence: the comparing of responsibility between the plaintiff and the defendant or defendants

Complaint: in a civil lawsuit, the first papers filed by the plaintiff setting out the facts on which the claim for relief is based

Compos Mentis: (lat.) mentally competent

Conclusion of Fact: the conclusion reached through use of facts and reasoning, without resort to rules of law

Conclusion of Law: conclusion reached through application of rules of law

Conclusive Evidence: evidence which is irrefutable

Conflict of Interest: a situation where the tending of one duty leads to disregard of another

Conflict of Laws: applicable law of one state court which differs with the applicable law of another state jurisdiction which also has an interest in the outcome

Consanguinity: the familial relationship of persons united by one or more common ancestors

Consent, Informed: see INFORMED CONSENT

Consent Judgment: an agreement of the parties which is placed on record with the court having jurisdiction

Consortium: the loss of services an society of another

Contempt of Court: a willful disobedience of a court order or a willful interference with the administration of justice

Contingent Fee: charge made by an attorney dependent upon the outcome of the case; the amount is usually a percentage of the party’s recovery

Continuance: a postponement

Contribution: a legal right of a party who is responsible to the victim for reimbursement from another person

Contributory Negligence: the negligence of the injured party which is recognized as conduct which contributed to the loss

Costs: court-recognized expenses of the legal proceedings for which the successful party is entitled to reimbursement from the other party

Criminal Negligence: an act of negligence that is a violation of law and constitutes a crime

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Damages: money compensation awarded to a person who has been injured by another; see ACTUAL DAMAGES, CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, LIQUIDATED DAMAGES, NOMINAL DAMAGES, PUNITIVE DAMAGES

Damnum Absque Injuria: (lat.) harm without injury

Declaratory Judgment: a review and determination by the court, sometimes with the assistance of a jury, of a matter to determine the rights of the parties or express the opinion of the court on a question of law or interpretation

Decree: a decision or order of a court, usually in equity; a final decree disposes of all matters before the court; an interlocutory decree disposes of only part of the lawsuit and often may not be appealed until the conclusion of the entire case

Default Judgment: a judgment entered against a party for that party’s failure to answer or comply as required by procedure laws. Most often occurs when a defendant fails to answer the court papers filed by the plaintiff charging the defendant with wrongdoing

Defense: the defendants statement or reasons why he should not be liable to the plaintiff for the allegations made

De Jure: (lat.) by right; lawful

Delayed Discover Rule: The delayed discovery rule was created as a way to protect negligence claims from the statute of limitations, which could have expired prior to the plaintiff knowing that he or she had a legal claim.

Deliberation: the jurors process of pondering and weighing of facts, applying the law, and coming to a verdict

Demand: the amount of money requested by the plaintiff

Demonstrative Evidence: evidence which aids by its ability to demonstrate; object or thing which can be viewed by the trier of fact

De Novo: (lat.) from the very beginning; anew

Depose: to give evidence or testimony under oath on the record

Deposition: the taking a statements prior to trail where all parties attorneys are asked to be present for the asking of questions of parties or witnesses while the proceedings are recorded by some approved method

Derogation: to repeal or abolish a law

Directed Verdict: a verdict entered in a jury trial by the judge before the jury is allowed to consider the merits of the case

Discovery: a procedure utilized by the attorneys to the litigation to acquire information in preparation for trial

Discretion: the exercise of an official prerogative to act in an official capacity

District Court: court having jurisdiction over a territorial district

Due Care: a theory of tort law to explain the standard of care or the legal duty one owes to others; what a reasonable person would do under like circumstances

Duty: obligation owed by a person to another person

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Election of Remedies: a choice of possible remedies sanctioned by law for a particular injury or wrong

En Banc: (lat., fr.) by the full court

Enlargement: the allowance of additional time to do a required act under the rules of civil procedure

En Ventre Sa Mere: (lat., fr.) in gestation; in the womb of ones mother

Equitable: due consideration for what is fair under particular circumstances

Erroneous: pertaining to a mistake

Estoppel: precluding from asserting

Exemplar: a replica of the actua
l item which was involved

Exhaustion of Remedies: a judicial policy or statutory requirement that certain administrative steps be taken before the court will consider the controversy

Exhibit: an item of evidence which has been presented to the court for consideration

Ex Parte: an application make by one party to the proceeding without the presence of the opposing party

Expert Witness: a witness having particular knowledge of the subject about which he is called upon to testify; permitted to aid the jury in understanding information outside of their common knowledge

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Fact-Finder: a person or persons that has the responsibility of determining the facts in question

Failure to Prosecute: the failure to proceed in a matter in litigation as expected by the court; a failure to pursue

Federal Courts: the courts of the United States

Final Pretrial Management Conference: This is a final meeting between the judge and the attorneys in preparing for trial.  This meeting will establish many of the rules and rulings by which the trial will be conducted.

First Impression: first discussion or consideration of a particular matter

Foreperson of Jury: the jury selected

Forensic: the branch of science that employs scientific technology to assist in the determination of facts in the courts of law

Foreseeability: a tort law requirement that the consequences of a parties action or inaction could reasonably result in the injury

Forum Non Conveniens: (lat.) an inconvenient place to proceed

Funeral Home Negligence: When a funeral home causes harm to a deceased person by doing something that is contrary to known and accepted mortuary standards

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Gag Order: an order by the court restricting comment on, or the release of information about the proceedings

Garnishment: a procedure to take control over a persons assets or income that have been judicially determined to be awed or to belong to another person

Good Cause: significant or legally adequate reason for the doing of some act

Good Faith: a properly intended deed that is free from improper motive

Governmental Immunity: a legal precept of sovereignty of the government rendering it exempt from liability for its acts or failures

Grand Jury: a group of individuals designated by law to determine whether enough evidence exists to merit a charge against the criminally accused; no parallel in civil law although many states require a review and certification prior a patients bringing of an action against a doctor or other person or entity providing medical services

Gross Negligence: conduct that is worse or more serious than a simple departure from reasonable care, but is less than a complete disregard of any care owed others

Guardian: one who legally has supervision and responsibility for a person

Guardian ad Litem: Individual protector appointed by a court to oversee the legal rights of an individual incompetent under the law.

Guilty: the determination by a jury that the accused has committed a crime; term is not relevant to civil law matters

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Harmless Error: error which is not sufficiently prejudicial to require reversal of the previous finding or outcome

Hearsay Rule: a rule of evidence that requires the declarant be subject to cross-examination at the hearing; many exceptions to the rule exist

Hidden Defect: a defect or condition which is not observable by a reasonable inspection; see LATENT DEFECT

HIPAA = Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

This is a US law that protects and maintains the privacy of the healthcare information of individuals

Hung Jury: a jury whose members cannot agree in sufficient numbers to reach a verdict, unanimous in criminal cases, federal civil cases and three-quarters in some other states civil cases

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Immaterial: a rule of evidence that requires that the evidence must have a sufficient relationship to the issue in question

Immunity: a grant of freedom from responsibility

Impact Rule: a requirement of some states tort law whereby a physical contact with the person must occur in order of damages for emotional distress to be recoverable

Impanel: to bring together in the courtroom the people selected to serve as the jury

Impleader: a rule of procedure whereby a third party is brought into an existing lawsuit

Implied Consent: a consent that is drawn from the facts of the surrounding circumstances

Implied Contract: a contract not expressly agreed upon in written terms but one created by the conduct of the parties

Imputed Liability: liability for the acts of another person which arises out of the operation of law

In Absentia: (lat.) in absence

In Camera: (lat.) in chambers

Indemnity: to wholly or partially responsibility for the loss that has been sustained by another

In Forma Pauperis: (lat.) as would a pauper. Normally refers to the right granted by the court to allow a party to proceed without the payment of costs due to financial inability

Informed Consent: a consent that is obtained after a full disclosure of the facts and risks involved; sometimes an allegation in medical negligence cases

Inherent Defect: a defect that exists and is natural to the item

Injunction: an order of the court which requires a person or entity to refrain from pursuing a particular course of conduct or activity

Injuria Absque Damno: (lat.) wrong or insult without damage; see DAMAGE ABSQUE INJURIA

Injuria Non Excusat Injuriam: (lat.) one wrong does not justify another injury any damage or injury inflicted upon another

In Limine: (lat.) at the beginning

In Loco Parentis: (lat.) in the place of the parent

In Personam: (lat.) against the person

In Re: in the matters of

In Rem: (lat.) an action against a thing, as opposed to an action against a person

Instruction: the law as given be the court to the jury prior to their deliberations which states the applicable law to the issues in the case

Inter Alia: (lat.) among other things

Interim Order: a temporary order

Interlocutory Order: an order or ruling that determines an intermediate issue, but does not dispose of the case in chief

Interpleader: a rule of procedure that allows a person who has a thing or money not belonging to him, and who is not certain to whom among several claimants it rightfully belongs, may give the thing or money to the court to decide who gets the thing or money

Interrogatories: in civil actions, a pretrial discovery tool in which written questions are sent by one party and are to be answered under oath by the other party

Intervention: a proceeding permitting a person to enter into a lawsuit already in progress

Inter Vivos: (lat.) between the living

Invasion of Privacy: the wrongful intrusion into a persons private life

Invitee: one who comes upon the land of another by invitation of the owner

Ipse Dixit: (lat.) he said it himself

Irreparable Injury: a loss for which no remedy at law would be sufficient and therefore a court sitting in equity may order a special relief other than money damages

Issue: the item of fact or law in dispute

Issue Preclusion: an issue that has been decided in a previous litigation that thereafter is precluded from being re-litigated

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Joinder: uniting of parties to single case or litigation

Joint and Several: sharing of right or liability between parties individually as well as jointly

Joint Enterprise: an agreement of two or more parties to take on a particular goal or project

Joint Pretrial Statement: A form prepared by the attorneys to provide the court a full itemization of the evidence that will be offered at trial

Joint Liability: a doctrine of liability making all parties who are responsible for a loss to each share full responsibility

Joint Venture: a business undertaking by two or more parties in which profits, losses and control are shared

Jones Act: federal law that grants a seaman who suffers injury to his or her person during the course of employment a right to damages

Judge-Made Law: law that is decided by judicial interpretation as opposes to legislative enactment and is often termed common law

Judgement: judicial determination of a matter

Judicial Notice: a rule of judicial convenience that negates the need for proof of matter

Jurisdiction: the authority of a court to hear and determine a matter

Jurisdictional Amount: an amount of money in controversy required for a court to have the authority to hear and determine a matter

Jurisprudence: the topical area of the science of law and societal order

Jurist: a legal scholar

Juror: an individual who has been impaneled as a member of a jury

Jury: the group of individuals who are impaneled to decide on the facts involved in the trial

Jury Instructions: These are the instructions that the judge will give the jury at the end of the trial.  Jury instructions are extremely important and are often very contentious.  What the judge tells the jury will often dictate which side wins or loses

Jury Trial: the determination of a case by a jury, the jury decides the facts and the court instructs the jury of the law to be applied to the facts

Justiciable: a matter that is capable of being determined by a court of law or equity with or without the aid of a jury

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Laches: neglecting to assert a right or claim which taken together with a lapse of time and other circumstances, causes prejudice to adverse party, thereby operating as a bar in a court of equity

Latent Defect: a defect not discoverable by the exercise of an ordinary inspection, see HIDDEN DEFECT

Law Office Study Program: A program offered by a few states that allows one to become a lawyer with no law school or undergrad.

Law of the Case: a legal principle which states that a determination of law by a higher court is considered as correct during all subsequent hearings in the proceedings unless the question is being heard by a court higher than the court that made the ruling

Lay Witness: a witness that is testifying as a witness to a fact or an opinion as opposed to an opinion given by an expert about a matter beyond the expected comprehension of the jury

Leave of Court: a request to the court to obtain permission to do something that otherwise would not be permissible

Lex Loci Delicti: (lat.) the place where the wrong took place

Legal Malpractice: When an attorney causes damage to a client by doing something that is contrary to known and accepted lawyer standards

Liability: responsibility or accountability for one’s breach of duty owed to another

Licensee: one of the classes of persons entering upon the lands of another whereby the individual has not been invited upon the land but is tolerated


Liquidated Damages: a sum of money agreed upon by the parties to a contract that will be paid as damages if there is a breach of the contract

Lis Pendens: (lat.) a pending suit

Long Arm Statues: statutory laws that empower a court to obtain jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant

Lord Campbell’s Act: the English law that first recognized the right of the family of a decedent to bring an action for damages against the person who was responsible for the death of their family member

Lump-Sum Payment: an amount of money that is paid in one payment as opposed to a structured settlement which is paid out over a period of time in several payments

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Magistrate: in the federal court system, this is a person who is appointed to serve as a representative of the court and is often given many responsibilities that would otherwise be performed by the federal judge

Malfeasance: the doing of an act in an improper, wrongful, or unlawful manner

Malice: a spiteful state of mind

Malpractice: a failure of a professional to act in accordance with the acceptable course of conduct, negligence of a member of a profession in a professional capacity

Mens Rea: a guilty mind

Mediation: This is the name where people who have a dispute meet to see if they can resolve their dispute.  A neutral person (usually an attorney) called a “Mediator” guides and controls the negotiations.

Medical Malpractice: When a physician causes harm to a patient by doing something that is contrary to known and accepted medical standards

Misfeasance: the improper performance of a required act

Mistrial: an action taken by a court which terminates a trial in progress

Mitigation of Damages: an> a duty owed by the party who sustained injury to his person or property to minimize the loss by acting in a reasonably prudent manner

Money Judgment: a judgment granting to one party the right to receive money from another party

Moot Case: a case that is fictional as it is based upon a fact or right which is not recognizable or which has already been resolved

Motion: a written or oral request to the court for an order to allow or prohibit some item or to ask the court to take a particular action with regard to the litigation

Motion in Limine: a request made by a party asking the court to prohibit the discussion or other presentation of a particular matter to the jury

Municipal Court: a court that hears and determines matters concerning its own laws and other matters within its jurisdiction as provided by law

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Negligence: failure to exercise that degree of care which an ordinary prudent person would exercise under the same or similar circumstances

Negligence Per Se: an act or failure to act that is considered unreasonable conduct as a matter of law without the need to consider surrounding circumstances

Next Friend: a person who acts on behalf of a party who for some reason of incapacity is not able to proceed and has not had a court appointed guardian appointed to act in a representative capacity

No Fault Insurance: an insurance scheme wherein every person injured in an automobile accident is compensated irrespective of who was at fault

Nonfeasance: the failure to perform a duty owed to another

Nominal Damages: a minute sum awarded, often only a penny or a dollar

Nonsuit: a judgment ordered by the court against a plaintiff who fails to proceed to trial

Nuisance: the hindrance or interference with the interests of others

Nursing Home Malpractice: When a nursing home facility causes harm to a patient by doing something that is contrary to known and accepted medical standards

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On All Fours: an expression used to characterize a case where facts and law are similar to another’s

On Demand: as soon as requested

On the Merits: a decision or ruling that deals with the underlying basis of the case rather than a rule of procedure

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Parental Liability: a statutory law that obligates parents for certain wrongful acts committed by their children prior to achieving adulthood

Pecuniary Damage: financial losses incurred

Per Diem: (lat.) course of a day

Personal Injury Attorney: A lawyer practicing tort law

Power of Attorney: A form that persons one person to legally act on behalf of another

Product Liability:This is the name for a case wherein a person claims to have been injured by a dangerous or defective product (i.e. a cell phone explodes and causes injury)

Premises Liability: This is the name given to a case wherein a person is injured on another person’s property (slip and fall, trip and fall, dangerous stairs, etc…)

Piercing the Corporate Veil: a legal doctrine that lifts a shareholder’s shield of immunity for wrongful corporate activity under special circumstances

Plaintiff: the party who first initiates litigation

Pleadings: papers required to be filed by each party with the court which allege the facts, claims, and defenses involved in the case

Prayer: the relief sought by the plaintiff in the lawsuit as stated in his pleading to the court

Precedent: a deviation in a prior case which established a right or reasoning of law which must be followed in the present case

Pre-Emption: a judicial principle which states that certain federal laws apply over certain state laws

Preponderence of the Evidence: the standard of proof in civil cases, more likely than not

Presumption: a rule of law which allows the finding of one fact from the presentation of another fact shown, an irrebuttable presumption requires a finding of the presumed fact

Prevailing Party: the winning party in the matter

Prima Facie Case: the existence of some evidence on each required point of a case

Privity: a sufficient relationship between parties to the same rights or property

Product Liability: principle of statutory and/or common law that holds a manufacturer responsible without regard for negligence if the product is defective

Proffer (of evidence): to present to the record in a trial what evidence a party has on a given point after the court has refused its admission into evidence in order that a reviewing court can know what was excluded at the original proceeding

Pro Hac Vice: (lat.) for this one particular occasion

Pro Se: (lat.) for himself; in law, it refers to a person who represents himself without a lawyer

Punitive Damages: an award of money to punish the wrongdoer and to discourage all from similar wrongdoing

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Quantum Meruit: as much as it is worth.

This term applies generally to the value of services provided.  If a dispute in terms, or perhaps the distribution of a settlement fund, the distribution can be made based upon the amount that is decided to be fair based upon the value of what each claimant contributed to the settlement fund.

Quash: to annul or abandon by judicial decision

When a judge decides to change a previous decision, he will “quash” the previous order and enter a new one.
Question of Fact: the existence of a controversy as to the actual facts of a case which must be determined by the trier of fact – a jury in a jury trial; the judge in a bench trial

In the law, there are questions of law (which a judge decides) and questions of fact (which a jury decides).  For example, a car accident occurs, and both drivers contend the other is at fault.  Whose “facts” are correct?  The jury gets to decide.

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Requests For Admission: A form of discovery in a lawsuit.  A party can ask another party to “Admit” specific facts, which if admitted then both 1) are admitted for the remainder of the case and 2) help the parties determine and focus only on the issues that are in dispute.

Rescission: the cancellation of a contract

When one party to a contract fails to abide by the terms, it is called a “breach”; if a serious enough breach, the other party may have the right to rescind (cancel) the contract.
Res Ipsa Loquitur: (lat.) the thing speaks for itself. In a negligence lawsuit, the plaintiff generally has the burden to prove that the defendant was negligent. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is a rule of evidence which has the effect
of requiring the defendant to prove that he was not negligent in certain circumstances

Example:  a person has a surgery and a member of the surgery team leaves an object in the patient’s body that results in harm.  Generally, the claimant is required to prove who is at fault, but how can this be done when 1) the surgeon blames the nurse, 2) the nurse blames the doctor and 3) the patient has no idea because they were unconscious at the time.  The doctrine of “Res Ipsa Loquitur” shifts the burden to prove fault to the doctor and the nurse.

Res Judicata: (lat.) the thing has been decided

Once a court decides an issue, the decision is final.  If a challenge is later made on the same issue, the court’s first decision will be given “Res judicata” (final) effect.
Respondeat Superior: (lat.) let the superior reply. A legal principle whereby the master is responsible for the acts or omissions of his/her servant

This is the rule that makes one person legally responsible for harm caused by another while the other is performing a task for the first.  Example:  When a delivery driver causes an accident, the driver is responsible, and under the law of respondeat superior, his employer is also responsible for the harm to the injured person.

Restitution: to make good the loss for injury or damage

Restitution is the name given to the payment of money by an at fault person to an injured person.  To make things right, the at fault person pays “restitution” in some form.
Reversible Error: error in a trial which is significantly sufficient to cause the entire trial to be reversed or a new trial to be granted by a reviewing appellate court

The trial judge makes decisions at trial regarding what evidence gets in and doesn’t get in, and, which law is applicable to the case.  When the trial judge makes a mistake, and that mistake is determined later to have affected the outcome of the case, it is called “reversible error” by the higher level court.  The case can then be sent back to the trial court for a completely new trial.

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Scienter: (lat.) knowledge, prior knowledge.  This is an old term, not used much any more.

Scintilla: a very small amount of evidence.  A “scintilla” may be thought of as the minimal amount needed to satisfy a burden.

Sequester: to separate, in law, refers to the isolation of the jury from the world outside the courtroom in order that they will not be influenced from events and information not presented in the trial.

In the mid-1990s, the jury in the State of California v. OJ Simpson was “sequestered” to prevent them from receiving any outside influence during the course of the trial.

Seventh Amendment: the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that entitles every individual to the right to have his/her civil case heard by a jury if the mount in controversy exceeds twenty dollars.

Note:  The Constitution was written LONG ago, when $20 was a decent amount of money.  It has never been amended.

Show Cause Order: a command from the court to appear before it and explain why something should not be done.

This usually occurs when the court orders a person to do something, and they fail to do it.  They then may be ordered to appears and “show cause” why they should not be held in contempt of court for failing to obey the previous ruling of the court.

Side-Bar: an area of the courtroom where the judge and attorneys can converse outside of the jury’s hearing.

During a trial, if needed, the judge and the lawyers will conference separately and quietly away from the jury.

Sixth Amendment: the amendment to the U.S. Constitution that entitles the accused in a criminal trial the right to a speedy trial by a jury and counsel.

The rights we have in the United States are deemed important and fundamental; those accused of serious offenses may be appointed an attorney by the judge, at no costs to him/her, so the proceedings are more fair.

Sovereign Immunity: a doctrine granting immunity to the sovereign unless the sovereign consents to be sued.

This concept comes from old England, wherein “the king could do no wrong”.  It is largely a dad concept now in American law.

Specific Performance: a remedy requiring a person who has breached a contract to perform specifically what was agreed upon and is available only when money damages would not suffice.

We see this in breach of contract cases, where there is no remedy for the “thing” contracted for but to be awarded the “thing” (i.e. the sale of a specific house or item).

Special Action (Interlocutory Appeal): If a trial court makes a ruling that is deemed so wrong that it will impact the outcome of the case, even before the case concludes, one party can appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court

Standing: the legal right of a person or entity to bring a lawsuit

In order to bring an action, you must have a legal interest in the subject matter.  If so, you are said to have “standing”

Stare Decisis: (lat.) to stand by that which was decided; the legal principle that a lower court will follow that which has already been decided by a previous case

This simply means that the law that has always been followed will be given consideration and effect in any controversy involving that subject matter.

State Bar Association: A state bar association is one that assists and directs certain requirements of the attorneys practicing law in a particular U.S. state or territory.

The Arizona State Bar also polices the attorneys in Arizona, collects dues and assures that the attorneys continues annually in their legal education.

Statute of Limitations: the statutory law which establishes the time within which a lawsuit must be brought or be forever barred

Different cases have different limitation period; you must settle or file a lawsuit by the “statute of limitations” deadline, or you will lose your rights forever.

Stipulation: an agreement by the attorneys on both sides about some aspect of the case.

If the sides agree to a fact or point, they can “stipulate to it.  That ends any debate on that point.

Strict Liability: liability without a showing of negligence

Generally, if it occurs, someone is automatically liable to the injured party (i.e. Dog bite laws in Arizona)

Subrogation: a right of repayment to a payor in the event that another is found to be responsible for the payee’s loss

If you have an obligation to pay for another’s harm, yet there is someone else also at fault, you can seek to collect from that other at fault person.  This is called “subrogation”

Summons: A court order requiring a person to do something

Summary Judgment: a finding and entry of judgment by the court after a hearing and review of the claims and the evidence of the parties prior to a trial wherein the court determines that there is no genuine issue or dispute as to any material fact available for presentation and that the evidence, as a matter of law, is insufficient to allow such claim to continue and renders judgment in favor of one party

In a lawsuit, if the facts of an event are not disputed, and the law is clear, then one party might be entitled to summary judgment (ruled on by the judge) in its favor.

Survival Statute: statutory law that creates a right on behalf of the estate of a deceased person to maintain a lawsuit for any cause of action that would have existed had the decedent not died.

If a person is wronged, their death will not end their claims against the person who caused them harm.

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Tort: a civil wrong which causes injury as a result of a breach of a legal duty owed to another.

A car accident, a dangerous property that results in injury, a medical malpractice, etc..

All people have a “legal duty” to act reasonable to not cause injury to others.  A violation of that duty that results in injury is called a “tort”.

Testimony:The statement or version of a person that is given under oath

Tort Claims Act: a statutory law enacted by the U.S. Congress and many state legislatures that waives all or some part of the government’s immunity from tort liability

This is a rule of procedure when asserting a tort claim against the United States.

Trial: a proceeding or hearing of evidence in a court having jurisdiction over the persons, entities, and subject matter for a determination of all issues between the parties based upon the applicable substantive law

When a dispute cannot be resolved between the parties, a trial allows a judge (bench trial) or a jury (jury trial) to listen to both sides, and make the decision for them.

Trial de Novo: a new trial

Sometimes after a trial ends, it is decided that errors in the trial made it unfair for one of the parties involved.

The court can order a “trial de novo”, which simply means a new trial on all issues.

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Ultrahazard Activity: conduct or any activity that involves such a great potential for harm or injury that the person or entity performing such activity will be held strictly liable for the outcome

Examples:  Transportation, storage, and use of dynamite and other explosives; transportation, storage, and use of radioactive materials; transportation, storage, and use of certain hazardous chemicals; keeping of wild animals (i.e. animals that are not normally domesticated in that area like a tiger, alligator, etc..)

Someone who is injured by one of these inherently hazardous activities may assert a claim against the owner/possessor  under a strict liability theory.

United States Supreme Court: The highest court in the United States.  The US Supreme Court typically reviews cases that contain constitutional issues

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Vacate: to set aside or to render void

A judge throws out a previous ruling and enters a new one.

Verdict: the conclusion of the court or jury which becomes the basis for the judgment

At the conclusion of a trial, the decision of the judge or jury is called the “verdict”

Vicarious Liability: the imputation of liability upon one person or entity for the acts or failure to act of another person or entity

Example:  An employer will always be responsible for the harm caused by an employee while working for the employer.

Voir Dire: (fr.) to see to speak; in law, it is that portion of the trial where the potential jurors are asked questions by the attorneys or the court to determine their qualifications and suitability to sit as jurors in the particular case

At the beginning of a trial, the judge and the lawyers can ask questions of the prospective jurors to learn more about them, to help everyone decide if they are right for the case

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Wanton: a heedless disregard for the outcome of one’s actions

This is an aggravated form of liability.  A “wanton” act is one that is done by someone with a complete disregard for the harm that might occur

Weight of the Evidence: an expression stating an evaluation of the balance of the evidence for each side of the controversy after the conclusion of the controversy

Both sides in a trial present evidence; the side who present the more compelling evidence generally wins, as the “weight of the evidence” is in their favor

Willful: a knowing disregard for the consequences of one’s actions

The same concept and “wanton”; a deliberate act without regard for the consequences

Witness: a person who is sworn at a trial to provide evidence in a case

A witness is anyone who has information to aid one side in a case:

  1. A person who witnessed the accident;
  2. A physician who provided care for the injuries;
  3. A friend or family member who can talk about the affect of the injuries on the victim.

Work Product: the work done by an attorney in the process of representing a client which is ordinarily privileged an not subject to discovery

An attorney’s “work product” includes an attorneys thoughts and strategies.  The other side does not get to discover this information as a matter of right in a court case

Wrongful Death Statues: statutory law that creates a right to bring an action by the personal representative of an estate of the deceased for the wrongful loss of the decedent’s life.

Arizona has a wrongful death statute (12-612); it spells out who can bring a claim for the wrongful death of a family member

Wrongful death: A wrongful act or “tort” that results in the death of another person.

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