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Glossary of Legal Terms

Affidavit – This is a statement that is made under oath, either written or spoken.

Appeal – If the plaintiff request to have a higher court review a lower court’s decision

Bellwether Trial - the tool generally used to move a litigation towards resolution framework, small groups of trials intended to represent the group as a whole

Brief – statement that explains one side’s legal and factual argument

Burden of proof – the responsibility to prove disputed facts; in civil cases, the plaintiff typically has the burden of proof

Cause of action – a legal claim

Class action – members of a large group, or “class”, of individuals or other entities sue on behalf of the whole group; a district court must find that the claims of the class members are the same amongst class members before the lawsuit can proceed as a class action

Complaint – a written statement in a civil lawsuit in which the plaintiff details their claims against the defendant Counsel – legal advice, attorneys

Court – the government entity that serves to resolve legal disputes

Damages – money paid to the plaintiff by a defendant, either to compensate the plaintiff for loss or injury or to punish or deter the defendant

Defendant – in a civil case, the individual or business against whom a lawsuit is filed

Discovery – methods for achieving disclosure of information or evidence prior to the trial

Due process – in civil law, the legal rights of someone who confronts an adverse action threatening liberty or property.

Evidence – information presented in a verbal or written form to persuade the judge or jury to decide the case in favor of one side or the other

Issue – the point that is being disputed in a lawsuit Lawsuit – a legal action initiated by a plaintiff against a defendant based on a complaint that the defendant failed to perform a legal duty which caused harm or damage to the plaintiff

Litigation – a case, controversy, or lawsuit; both plaintiffs and defendants can be called litigants

Magistrate judge – judge in a district court who conducts many pretrial civil and criminal matters on behalf of district judges and decides civil cases with the consent of the parties

Mass Tort – A civil action involving numerous plaintiffs against one or more corporate defendants in state or federal court; product liability suits are usually mass torts

Multi-District Litigation – MDLs occur when civil actions involving one or more common questions of fact are pending in different districts; this is a procedure that speeds the process of complex lawsuits such as product liability suits

Plaintiff – the person or business that files a formal complaint with the court

Settlement – the process of resolving a lawsuit without a trial; typically involves one party paying damages to the other without a formal admission of guilt

Statute of limitations – the timeframe within which a lawsuit must be filed

Tort – a civil wrong; a negligent or intentional injury against a person or property