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LEGAL JARGON DEMYSTIFIED

Updated: Jul 31, 2020


Legal terms can be confusing. Here are definitions of some terms relevant to common disputes. Many, if not most disputes are resolved before trial, typically by settlement between the parties or sometimes with the assistance of a mediator. Among other things, bringing a case to court requires a proper cause of action, jurisdiction, standing and venue.

Arbitration – Arbitration is a process of investigation and decision on a matter of controversy among two or more parties. When used in place of litigation by prior contractual agreement it is called binding arbitration. The parties must accept and abide by the decision of the arbitrators in binding arbitration.

Cause of Action – A right to bring a lawsuit against a party for its action(s) or a failure to act that is recognized under the law and resulting in a loss of personal rights, damage or loss to you or your property for which you may be entitled to relief, such as money (legal remedy) or a directive to the offending party (equitable remedy).

Civil Law – Civil law originated in ancient Roman times. As opposed to common law, civil law relies on a legislatively adopted legal code that addresses prohibited conduct, penalties for violation and procedures for administering justice. As such, civil law is subject to new code provisions, revisions and repeal of existing code. In the United States, Louisiana is the only state that follows civil law.

Common Law – Common law originated in Medieval England. It is the foundation of the English legal system and has been adopted by many nations including the United States. Common law is based more on precedent than on statutes and regulations.

Equitable Remedy – An equitable remedy is a nonmonetary judgment, such as an order to do something (specific performance) or refrain from doing something (injunction).

Legal Remedy – A legal remedy is the means by which a court enforces a right, levies a penalty or issues some other type of order. Legal remedies may include an award for monetary damages, commonly used to compensate injured parties.

Jurisdiction – Jurisdiction usually refers to the authority of a court to hear and decide certain types of cases called subject matter jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction means a court’s power to bring a defendant to court, typically enabled by the defendant’s presence in the state where the court is situated or by ownership of property in that state.

Mediation – Mediation is a process in which the parties to a dispute meet, discuss and attempt to resolve their difference with a neutral person called a mediator. The mediator does not decide for or against either party; the mediator’s role is to ensure open communications and reduce personal hostility to aid the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable solution.

Regulation – A rule or directive made by and enforced by a government agency. Government agencies are typically authorized to promulgate regulation (i.e., put into effect) through enactment of statutes by a legislative body.

Service of Process – Service of process means the manner in which documents relative to a court proceeding, such as a complaint by a plaintiff against a defendant are required to be delivered or noticed to the other party. Service of process is governed by the individual states’ and federal rules.

Standing - Standing means the right or capacity of a party to bring suit in court. Standing generally requires that a plaintiff demonstrate a palpable harm or injury; there exists a causal connection between the conduct complained of and the harm or injury; and harm or injury is likely redressable by a favorable court decision.

Statute - Laws enacted by legislative bodies, such as the U.S. Congress, a state legislature or a city council.

Statute of Limitations – For non-criminal causes of action, a time limit within which a claim must be brought following the occurrence of an injury or harm. Statutes of limitation may begin from the date of the injury, the date the injury was discovered (e.g., disease caused by exposure to harmful substances), or the date the plaintiff should have discovered the injury utilizing reasonable efforts.

Statute of Repose – In contrast to a statute of limitations, a statute of repose is a rigid time limit within which a lawsuit must be initiated regardless of whether or when injury or harm occurs.

Venue - Venue prescribes the location where a case may be heard. Venue may be the location where the events occurred, where the property in issue is located, or where the plaintiff or defendant resides or does business.

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