Glossary of Tort Law Terms
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Security Agreement: A
contract between a lender and borrower that states that the lender can repossess
the property a person has offered as collateral if the loan is not paid as
Services of Process: The act
of notifying the other parties that an action has begun and informing them of
the steps they should take in order to respond.
Settlement Agreement: In a
civil lawsuit, the document that spells out the terms of an out-of-court
Settlement: Parties to a
lawsuit resolve their difference without having a trial. Settlements often
involve the payment of compensation by one party in satisfaction of the other
Sidebar: A conference between
the judge and lawyers held out of earshot of the jury and spectators.
Slander: Defamatory (false
and injurious) oral statements or gestures.
Sole Proprietorship: A form
of business organization in which an individual is fully and personally liable
for all the obligations (including debts) of the business, is entitled to all of
its profits and exercises complete managerial control.
Standard of Care: The degree
of care a reasonable person would take to prevent an injury to another.
Standing: The legal right to
initiate a lawsuit. To do so, a person must be sufficiently affected by the
matter at hand, and there must be a case or controversy that can be resolved by
Stare Decisis: Latin for
"to stand by that which is decided." Refers to the principle of
adhering to precedent when deciding a case.
Statement: A description that
a witness gives to the police and that the police write down.
Statute of Limitations: A law
that sets the time within which parties must take action to enforce their
Statute of Repose: A statute
of repose for products completely cuts off liability of the manufacturer or
seller of a defective product after an arbitrarily-established number of years,
such as 10 years or 15 years. Statutes of repose apply no matter how serious the
injuries, how many injuries have been caused over the years by these products or
services, or how reckless the actions of the wrongdoer were. They cover products
with expected lives much longer than typical cut-off dates in the statute of
repose, products like nuclear power plant components, medical devices such as
pacemakers, elevators, airplanes, home appliances, playground equipment, farm
equipment, freight trains, trucks, and other industrial machinery.
Statute: A law passed by a
Statutes of Fraud: Laws in
most states to protect against false claims for payment from contracts that were
not agreed upon. The specific laws vary from state to state, but most require
that certain contracts be in writing.
Statutes of Limitations: Laws
setting deadlines for filing lawsuits within a certain time after events occur
that are the source of a claim.
Strict Liability: Liability
even when there is no proof of negligence. Often applicable in product liability
cases against manufacturers, who are legally responsible for injuries caused by
defects in their products, even if they were not negligent.
Structured Settlements: Also
called "periodic payments," structured settlement laws either mandate
or allow courts to require that some or all payments awarded by a judge or jury
be made to the injured consumer over a long period of time. In other words, the
injured consumer is prohibited from receiving payments in a lump sum. These
provisions increase the hardships of the most seriously injured consumers who
are hit soon after an injury with large medical costs and must make adjustments
in transportation and housing. Often, the law allows insurance companies to
pocket the money upon the plaintiff's death, instead of paying it to a dependent
spouse or child.
Subpoena Duces Tecum: A
command to a witness to produce documents.
Subpoena: An order compelling
a person to appear to testify or produce documents.
Summary Judgment: A decision
made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a
trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Summation: The closing
argument in a trial.
Summons: A legal document
that notifies a party that a lawsuit has been initiated and states when and
where the party must appear to answer the charges.