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Main Dictionary P

Prima Facie

“Prima facie” is translated from Latin as “from the first sight”. This term refers to the court proceedings. When an injured side (a person or business) files a complaint against the side caused damage, it has to provide prima facie evidence of this damage. Only after the contemplation of the evidence can the lawsuit be approved and considered in court. If there is no prima facie evidence, or it’s not convincing enough, the claim will be dismissed. Providing proofs is obligatory due to the burden of proof which comes from one side to another.

In general, furnishing prima facie evidence is a first step of approving the claim in court during a pre-trial hearing. However, the acceptance of these proofs doesn’t guarantee winning the case. The burden of proof moves to the defendant and allows him to present his opinion on the case. During the procedure of providing and considering the evidence, the trial is purported to be prima facie eligible.

For example, a company has suffered from an unreliable supplier, lost a client and incurred expenses. Director of the company makes a decision to file a complaint against the contractor. The complainant must describe the conflict situation, incurred expenses, and the defendant’s action or inaction that caused damage to the company. As prima facie evidence he can attach the client's complaint, contract documentation, checks, etc. If this evidence gets accepted, the lawsuit will be reviewed as prima facie. The supplier, in turn, has to provide proofs of his innocence.

Prima Facie in tort law

Tort law deals with almost all the civil suits. There are two sides participating in a lawsuit – a plaintiff (the one that gets harmed) and a defendant (the one that does harm). Prima facie in tort or civil law has a purpose to protect the harmed side from the other one.

In order the civil lawsuit will be considered in court, prima facie evidence has to be accepted during the pre-trial hearing. The evidence has to prove that:

  1. The defendant had a duty not to harm the plaintiff the way it happened.
  2. The defendant violated the contract, and did it intentionally.
  3. The plaintiff suffered from this contract violation.
  4. The defendant’s action or inaction caused harm to the plaintiff.

Let’s analyze the previous example. There is evidence of the supplier’s duty stated in the contract. Checks and delivery documents can prove that the supplier violated the contract, thereby harming the company. However, if the company has no evidence of malicious intent of the supplier, the court most likely will dismiss this complaint.

All the aforementioned components are mandatory for prima facie evidence. Continuing with the previous example, if the company could prove that the supplier hadn’t obeyed the contract because he directly tried to harm the director of the company or the company itself, then all the components would be taken into account.

Prima Facie in criminal law

The rules applied to prima facie in tort law are the same in criminal law. Except that criminal felonies harm people or companies to a greater extent and, consequently, require more severe punishment.

The plaintiff has to offer evidence that includes all of the required components (the duty, breach of contract, injury, and ill intent). If the lawsuit gets accepted during the pre-trial hearing, the defendant has to provide counterarguments that overcome the evidence of the prosecution. Also, instead of providing counterarguments the defendant can cast discredit on the plaintiff’s proofs. If it works, the accused side will be exonerated of charges.

Prima Facie in labor law

Prima facie cases related to labor activity are considered in court almost the same way as civil and criminal cases. If there is a discrimination in a workplace, an employee can file a complaint. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids the discrimination in employment by one’s religion, sex, race, color, or national origin.

This complaint should outline that:

  1. The claimant belonged to one of the protected groups.
  2. The worker met all the needed requirements for a job.
  3. The employer’s malicious action caused damage to the worker.
  4. The claimant was treated differently than other workers unrelated to the protected groups.

Sometimes prima facie evidence can be enough to allow the case for a summary judgment. This judgment is fully based on the provided evidence, i.e., occurs without a trial.

Prima Facie negligence

In conclusion, let’s consider a prima facie negligence case. These cases refer to the situations when someone's irresponsible action or inaction caused damage to people. The prima facie negligence claim has the same elements:

  1. The legal duty of someone to do something.
  2. The violation of this duty.
  3. Consequences of this violation.
  4. The evidence that this violation was intentional.

For instance, a dog’s owner lets the dog walk without a leash despite the fact that it might be dangerous for people. The dog attacks someone and this person decides to file a prima facie negligence claim. In order to prove his claim, the plaintiff can attach an official police report with photos of the accident. Also, he can collect medical records and bills for the treatment. These proofs have to be enough to warrant the case to the trial.

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