Glossary of Tort Law Terms
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Panel: (1) In appellate
cases, a group of judges (usually three) assigned to decide the case; (2) in the
jury selection process, the group of potential jurors.
Parties: Plaintiffs and
defendants (petitioners and respondents) to lawsuits, also known as appellants
and appellees in appeals, and their lawyers.
Partition: A court action to
divide property. Typically taken when a property is jointly owned and a dispute
arises about how to divide it.
Partnership: An association
of two or more people who agree to share in the profits and losses of a business
Penalty Phase: The second
part of a bifurcated trial, in which the jury hears evidence and then votes on
what penalty or damages to impose.
Peremptory Challenges: Limited
number of challenges each side in a trial can use to eliminate potential jurors
without stating a reason. Challenges may not be used to keep members of a
particular race or sex off the jury.
Personal Guardian: Person
appointed to take custody of children and provide for their care and upbringing.
Distinguished from property guardian.
Personal Representative: A
person who manages the legal affairs of another, such as a power of attorney or
Petit Jury: A group of
citizens who hear the evidence presented by both sides at trial and determine
the facts in dispute. Federal civil juries consist of six persons. Distinguished
from a grand jury.
Petition: A written
application to the court asking for specific action to be taken.
Plaintiff: The person who
initiates a lawsuit.
Pleadings: In a civil case,
the allegations by each party of their claims and defenses.
Power of Attorney: The
authority to act legally for another person.
Precedent: A previously
decided case that is considered binding in the court where it was issued and in
all lower courts in the same jurisdiction.
Prejudgment Interest: Prejudgment
interest is the amount of interest that accrues on the value of an injured
consumer's claim between the time he or she files a case and the final judgment.
Some states penalize victims by prohibiting pre-judgment interest or by imposing
very low limits on pre-judgment interest rates. Laws that limit prejudgment
interest can delay timely settlements or judgments in civil cases by reducing
the monetary incentive that defendants have to resolve cases expeditiously.
Preponderance of the Evidence:
The level of proof required to prevail in most civil cases. The judge or jury
must be persuaded that the facts are more probably one way (the plaintiff's way)
than another (the defendant's).
Pre-sentencing Report: A
report prepared by a probation department, for a judge, to assist in sentencing.
Typically contains information about prior convictions and arrests, work history
and family details.
Pretrial Conference: A
meeting of the judge and lawyers to discuss which matters should be presented to
the jury, to review evidence and witnesses, to set a timetable, and to discuss
the settlement of the case.
Pre-Trial Diversion: A
program in which a defendant essentially is put on probation for a set period of
time and his or her case does not go to trial during that time. If the defendant
meets the conditions set by the court, then the charge will be dismissed.
Prima Facie: Latin for
"at first view." Refers to the minimum amount of evidence a plaintiff
must have to avoid having a case dismissed. It is said that the plaintiff must
make a prima facie case.
Privileged Communication: Conversation
that takes places within the context of a protected relationship, such as that
between an attorney and client, a husband and wife, a priest and penitent, and a
doctor and patient.
Pro se: Latin phrase that
means "for himself." A person who represents himself in court alone
without the help of a lawyer is said to appear pro se.
Procedure: The rules for the
conduct of a lawsuit; there are rules of civil, criminal, evidence, bankruptcy,
and appellate procedure.
Product Liability Defences:
The doctrine of "strict liability" has long applied in suits involving
defective products. Strict liability ensures that one who is responsible for
bringing a dangerously defective product into the marketplace or workplace
compensates those injured by the product. This forces plaintiffs, who are at a
distinct disadvantage when it comes to knowledge about technical design
alternatives, to prove the existence of such alternatives when this defense is
raised. Other laws immunize manufacturers that produce products with design
defects if the products have "obvious risks," like tobacco, or are
considered "unavoidably unsafe," like guns -- even if a defective gun
accidentally discharges and kills someone.
Promissory Note: A written
document in which a borrower agrees (promises) to pay back money to a lender
according to specified terms.
Property Guardian: Person
appointed to oversee property left to a minor in a will. Distinguished from a
Punitive Damages: Money
awarded to a victim that is intended to punish a defendant and stop the person
or business from repeating the type of conduct that caused an injury. Also
intended to deter others from similar conduct.