statute of limitations

a law which sets the maximum period which one can wait before filing a lawsuit, depending on the type of case or claim. The periods vary by state. Federal statutes set the limitations for suits filed in federal courts.


any ruling or decision of a court


an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration.


prior reported opinion of an appeals court which establishes the legal rule (authority) in the future on the same legal question decided in the prior judgment.


to ascertain the subsequent treatment of a legal decision, thus putting its precedential value in a complete context.


failure to exercise the care toward others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the circumstances, or taking action which such a reasonable person would not.


to send a case back to a lower court to be tried again


a person who is authorized to act for another (the agent's principal) through employment, by contract or apparent authority.


an essential requirement to a cause of action


a system of government in which the same territory is controlled by two levels of government.


the summary of the key legal points determined by an appeals court, which appears just above each decision in published reports of cases. Headnotes are useful for a quick scan of the judgment, but they are the editor's remarks and not the court's.

legislative history

made up of documents preceding and accompanying the enactment of a law.


possible but not certain to occur


every legal document filed in a lawsuit, petition, motion and/or hearing, including complaint, petition, answer, demurrer, motion, declaration and memorandum of points and authorities (written argument citing precedents and statutes).


the authority given by law to a court to try cases and rule on legal matters within a particular geographic area and/or over certain types of legal cases.


A law, rule, or principle, especially a religious law or an ethical rule of conduct.


a formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment.


from French for "wrong," a civil wrong or wrongful act, whether intentional or accidental, from which injury occurs to another.


for a court to order that someone either do a specific act, cease a course of conduct or be prohibited from committing a certain act.


a general term for the effort of an attorney representing a defendant during trial and in pre-trial maneuvers to defeat the party suing or the prosecution in a criminal case.