Glossary of Tort Law Terms
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Damages: The financial
compensation awarded to someone who suffered an injury or was harmed by someone
else's wrongful act.
Debtor: Person who owes
Decision: The judgment
rendered by a court after a consideration of the facts and legal issues before
Deed: A written legal
document that describes a piece of property and outlines its boundaries. The
seller of a property transfers ownership by delivering the deed to the buyer in
exchange for an agreed upon sum of money.
Defamation: The publication
of a statement that injures a person's reputation. Libel and slander are
Default Judgment: A ruling
entered against a defendant who fails to answer a summons in a lawsuit.
Default: The failure to
fulfill a legal obligation, such as neglecting to pay back a loan on schedule.
Defendant: In civil matters,
the defendant is the person or organization that is being sued.
Defense Table: The table
where the defense lawyer sits with the defendant in the courtroom.
Defined Benefit Plan: A type
of retirement plan that specifies how much in benefits it will pay out to a
Deposition: Part of the
pre-trial discovery (fact-finding) process in which a witness testifies under
oath. A deposition is held out of court with no judge present, but the answers
often can be used as evidence in the trial.
Direct Evidence: Evidence
that stands on its own to prove an alleged fact, such as testimony of a witness
who says she saw a defendant pointing a gun at a victim during a robbery.
Direct Examination: The
initial questioning of a witness by the party that called the witness.
Directed Verdict: A judge's
order to a jury to return a specified verdict, usually because one of the
parties failed to prove its case.
Disbursements: Legal expenses
that a lawyer passes on to a client, such as for photocopying, overnight mail
and messenger services.
Discovery: Part of the
pre-trial litigation process during which each party requests relevant
information and documents from the other side in an attempt to
"discover" pertinent facts.
Dismissal with Prejudice: When
a case is dismissed for good reason and the plaintiff is barred from bringing an
action on the same claim.
Docket: A log containing
brief entries of court proceedings.
Double Jeopardy: Being tried
twice for the same offense.
Due Process: The idea that
laws and legal proceedings must be fair. The Constitution guarantees that the
government cannot take away a person's basic rights to "life, liberty or
property, without due process of law." Courts have issued numerous rulings
about what this means in particular cases.
Duty to Warn:The legal
obligation to warn people of a danger. Typically, manufacturers of hazardous
products have a duty to warn customers of a product's potential dangers and to
advise users of any precautions they should take.