July 6, 2020
Jason Gabbard
Founder of JustLaw

JustLaw’s Plain English Legal Dictionary

An old proverb in business says “where there’s mystery, there’s profit margin.” For that reason, a lot of lawyers like to use fancy words and other legal jargon to make the law more complicated than it is, and make themselves sound smarter, in the process confusing their clients. At JustLaw, we do things differently. That’s why we created this handy, modern and free-to-use Plain English Legal Dictionary.  If there are any terms, you’d like to have us add to the dictionary, we’d love to hear from you.  Drop us a line here.


BROWSE THE DICTIONARY: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p r s t u v w y


Abet

v. To help someone commit a crime, such as helping them escape from the police or plan the crime. 

EX: Clooney clearly abetted Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 11.

Act of God

n. An occurrence that is out of human control. Usually a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a tornado.  In some cases, a party in the contract may not have to do what they agreed to do under a contract if an act of God makes it nearly impossible. 

EX: I was obligated to deliver Timmy a pizza this afternoon, but since the hurricane is an act of God, I don’t think I have to do so.

Affidavit

n. A written statement to be used as evidence in court that is made under oath or affirmation. Stated more directly, the statement is sworn to be true by the individual. 

EX: I have a signed affidavit stating that a man was seen driving the black jeep.

Age discrimination

n. The treatment of an employee or even an applicant in a less favorable way because of their age. 

EX: We should not fire Roger simply because he is 76 years old, he may sue us for age discrimination.

Alimony

n. Support paid by one ex-spouse to the other as ordered by a court in a divorce case. 

EX: Rebecca was worried that she would have financial troubles after her divorce, however her lawyer assured her that her ex-husband would be required to provide her with alimony payments.

Antenuptial (prenuptial) agreement

n. A written contract between two people who are nearing marriage. The agreements sets out the terms of possession of assets, treatment of future earnings, control of the property, potential division if the marriage is later dissolved, etc. 

EX: Amy’s loaded; if she doesn’t get a prenuptial agreement and things go wrong with Billy, he could take her money.

Appeal

v. To ask a higher court to reverse the decision of a trial court after final judgment or other legal ruling. After the lower court judgment is entered into the record, the losing party (appellant) must file a notice of appeal in order to be heard by that court. 

EX: In the movie Just Mercy, Walter McMillian appeals his murder conviction with the help of attorney Bryan Stevenson. 

Arbitration

n. The process of bringing a dispute before a disinterested third party and having them come to a final decision after hearing arguments and examining evidence. 

EX: Baseball teams seek arbitration hearings when they cannot agree on a contract with their players.

Articles of incorporation

n. Establishes the existence of a corporation. The charter sets out the name, basic purpose, incorporators, amount and types of stock which may be issued, and any special characteristics such as being a non-profit. 

EX: If you would like to start a new business, you must file an articles of incorporation with your state.

At will employment

n. A provision found in many employment contracts which suggest the employee works at the will of the employer, and which the employers insert in order to avoid claims of termination in breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, or discrimination. On the contrary, an employee may also terminate their work with the employer at any time. 

EX: If you are an at will employee, you may be terminated at any time during your employment.

Attorney-client privilege

n. The requirement that an attorney may not reveal communications, conversations, and letters between himself/ herself and his/her client, under the theory that a person should be able to speak freely and honestly with his/her attorney without fear of future revelation.

EX: Do not worry, your lawyer cannot tell others of anything you told your lawyer relating to your case, he/she is bound by attorney-client privilege.

Bad faith

n. An intentional dishonest act. Bad faith could be exhibited by not fulfilling legal or contractual obligations, misleading another, entering into an agreement without the intention or means to fulfill it, or violating basic standards of honesty in dealing with others. 

EX: Leanne accused her landlord of acting in bad faith when the landlord failed to repair a broken window that he had previously promised he would do before she moved in.

Bait and switch

n. A dishonest sales practice revolving around false advertising. The store owner tends to advertise an extremely low price for an item in order to draw customers into the store. The store owner then tells the prospective buyer that the advertised item is of poor quality or no longer available and attempts to switch the customer to a more expensive product. 

EX: It is almost entirely illegal to conduct bait and switch advertising as a retailer; instead retailers must sell exactly what they advertise.

Breach

n. A failure to perform on the specific terms of a contract. A breach will inevitably lead to a cause of action for the aggrieved party. 

EX: Netflix and Relativity Media recently came to a settlement after Netflix alleged that Relativity breached their licensing deal by putting their movies on different streaming services. 

Breach of contract

n. Failing to perform on any term of a contract, written or oral, without a legitimate legal excuse. 

EX: In 2012, Macy’s sued Martha Stewart alleging breach of contract after Martha sold certain products to J.C. Penney that Macy’s considered were exclusive. 

Burden of proof

n. The requirement that the plaintiff, the party bringing a civil lawsuit, be obligated to show by a “preponderance of evidence”, that all the facts necessary to win a judgment are presented and are probably true. In a criminal trial, the burden of proof required of the prosecutor is to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt”. 

EX: The prosecutors failed to meet their burden of proof in convicting OJ Simpson. 

Bylaws

n. The rules of a corporation, association, partnership or any organization that are used to regulate itself.

EX: All corporations should have bylaws in order to efficiently run their business.

Class action

n. A lawsuit filed by one or more people on behalf of themselves and among an extensive number of people who have the same claim. 

EX: Former NFL players filed a class action lawsuit against the National Football League for serious medical conditions associated with head trauma and recently settled with the NFL for approximately $1 billion, highlighted in the movie Concussion.

Common stock

n. Shares in a corporation. The shares include dividends which are calculated upon a percentage of net profits, with distribution determined by the board of directors. Usually holders of common stock have voting rights. 

EX: Waystar Corporation, the prominent yet fictitious corporation in the HBO hit series Succession, is constantly having its common stock tossed around in various potential deals through attempted hostile takeovers, bear hugs, and poison pills. 

Contingent fee

n. A fee that will be paid to the attorney upon winning or settling a lawsuit in favor of the client. 

EX: Many attorneys work on contingent fees, and may receive a percentage of any settlement or judgment that they are able to earn for their client.

Copyright

 n. The exclusive right of the creator of a literary or artistic property to print, copy, sell, license, distribute, transform to another medium, translate, record or perform or otherwise use (or not use) and to give it to another by will. Examples include a book or movie. 

EX: Music is always subjected to copyright and thus, others cannot use any music you create without your permission.

Declaratory judgment

n. A judgment of a court which determines the rights of parties without ordering any action to be taken or awarding damages to either party.

EX: The Judge entered a declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiff.

Deposition

n. The testimony of a witness under oath before a court reporter outside of a courtroom prior to trial. 

EX: The Social Network holds one of the most riveting deposition scenes in movie history, as Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg, is deposed during a case in which the Winklevoss brothers sued Zuckerberg for stealing their idea. 

Depreciate

v.To diminish the value of an asset. This is done annually in accounting and is based on the idea that assets become obsolete, worn out, and of little value over time.

EX: The longer you hold on to your car, the more it will depreciate in value.

Earnest payment

n. A payment to establish a binding contract. 

EX: The earnest payment will guarantee your contract.

Easement 

n. The right to use the real property of another for a specific purpose. An easement will generally grant the holder access to another property. 

EX: Before you purchase a house, always check for any easements on the property.

Element 

n. Requirement of a law. All causes of action are made up of elements which all must be met in order to succeed on a particular cause of action. 

EX: In order to prove negligence, you must meet all the elements.

Embezzlement 

n. The crime of stealing the funds or property of another. Most likely from an employer or the government. 

EX: Bernie Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies including embezzlement, due to a ponzi scheme that lasted over 17 years and generated him billions of dollars. 

Equal Opportunity 

 n. A right guaranteed to protect the people against any discrimiantion. This is guaranteed by both federal and many state laws. 

EX: Equal Opportunity provides everyone with the right to seek employment, housing, etc. without any discrimination against their race, sex, color, etc. 

Equitable 

adj. Fairness. 

EX: The equitable arrangement was accepted by the opposing party and made into a binding contract.

Equitable estoppel 

n. This will be utilized by a court if a party has not acted fairly. It will be used to halt a judgment or other legal relief. 

EX: The Judge will utilize equitable estoppel if the other party has concealed material information during the discovery process.

Escalator clause

n. As the cost of living index increases, this provision, usually found in a lease, will increase as well. Commonly takes the form of rent, installment payments, or alimony. 

EX: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many construction contracts might include escalator clauses that permits the cost adjustment of equipment or materials depending on their price change in the open market due to the pandemic. 

Escape clause 

n. This provision permits a party to be discharged from any obligation under a contract if a certain event occurs. 

EX: As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many real estate associations have begun to add provisions in their contracts that act as escape clauses, permitting either party to terminate the contract due to unforeseen circumstances. 

Escrow 

n. An account in which funds and documents may be transferred into. Most commonly used in a transfer of real property and could include money or a deed of trust.

EX: Pete placed the deed to his house in escrow, before they sold their house, to assure all their terms were met for selling.

Exemplary damages 

n. Damages requested when the defendant’s willful acts were with the intent to cause harm. Interchangeable with punitive damages. 

EX: The plaintiff is seeking exemplary damages after requiring surgery for a vicious bite by the defendants dog.

Fact finder

n. Meant to determine whether facts are true and credible. Generally, the jury will act as a fact finder in any case, civil or criminal. 

EX: The fact finder is not to be confused with the judge, if the jury is present.

Fair market value 

n. The value of a piece of property if it were to be advertised on the open market. 

EX: If you want to determine the fair market value of a house, take a look at similar houses in the area and their prices.

Fiduciary 

n. A person who acts on the behalf of another. The person must act in good faith and in the best interests of those who they serve. 

EX: Enron breached its fiduciary duty to its shareholders when it had to file for bankruptcy due to accounting fraud, causing the shareholders to lose approximately $74 billion. 

Firm offer

n. An offer that may not be withdrawn, revoked, or amended for a particular period of time. 

EX: Before a binding contract is formed, you may receive a firm offer.

Forbearance 

n. Consideration for a promise by the debtor to pay an added amount based on an intentional delay in collecting a debt or demanding performance on a contract.

EX: Bob’s forbearance will be met with additional consideration on the part of Ryan.

Foreclosure 

n. System by which real property is sold to cover a loan made for mortgage payments secured by a deed of trust on real property. The property will be sold to cover the unpaid amount of the loan if the debtor fails to pay it. 

EX: The Smith’s have been unable to make their mortgage payments and thus the bank is threatening foreclosure.

Franchise 

n. The right granted to an individual or group to market a company’s goods or services in a specific geographic area.

EX: Jeff owns one of many Burger King franchises across America.

Fraud in the inducement 

n.  Misleading someone through the use of deceit in order to make them agree to a contract or deed away real property. 

EX: The homeowners did not tell the potential buyers that there is mold in the basement before they bought the house, thus leading to a claim of fraud in the inducement.

Free and Clear

adj. Used to indicate that real property has no lien, encumbrance, recorded judgment or the right granted to someone to create a cause of action against the property. 

EX: Fortunately, there are no liens on the house, thus I own the property free and clear.

Full Disclosure 

N. The requirement in all business transactions for there to be complete truth of all matters while a party is determining whether to accept a contract or not.

EX: The Securities and Exchange Commission requires full disclosure of all companies releasing shares to the public.

Garnish 

v.  To obtain a court order directing a party to withhold wages of a debtor until it is determined how much the debtor owes the creditor. 

EX: The Judge ordered that the defendant have his wages garnished.

Good faith 

n. Acting with an honest intent to negotiate or fulfill a contract. Applies to all transactions. 

EX: All contracts must be negotiated with good faith.

Gross income 

n. The income of an individual before any deductions of allowable expenses or taxes. 

EX: If you file for chapter 13 bankruptcy, you will most likely be required to pay your creditors over a 3 or 5 year plan. The amount you pay will be determined by deducting your necessary living expenses from your gross income. 

Guarantee 

v. To agree to be responsible for another’s debt or contractual performance if the other person does not fulfill payment or perform their duties under the contract. 

EX: Ryan ill-advisedly agreed to guarantee the car lease of his brother, who months later, filed for chapter 7 bankruptcy, thus making Ryan obligated to pay off the car lease. 

Holder 

n. A general term for anyone in possession of property. Most commonly a person holding a promissory note for which they are due payment. 

EX: The holder of the property is currently in negotiations to sell the property. 

H-1B Visa

n. A US granted visa of which an employer is permitted to employ foreign workers. 

EX: File for an H-1B visa if you wish to employ foreign workers who do not have US citizenship. 

Holding company 

n. A company or corporation created to own the stock of other corporations. Therefore, they can control the management and policies of those companies. 

EX: A new holding company will be formed as part of the pending merger.

Holdover tenancy 

n. A circumstance that occurs when a tenant occupies the premises of which they previously owned a lease for, but are now continuing their occupancy of the premises beyond the lease expiration date. This is without the consent of the owner of the property. The tenant is responsible for payment of the monthly rent at the existing rate. 

EX: The lease expired two months ago, however Jacob has not left the premises, thus leading to a holdover tenancy.

i.e.

Latin for “that is” or “that is to say.” It should not be confused with “e.g.,” which means “for example.”

EX: I am a vegan, i.e. I do not eat any animal-based foods.

Illusory promise 

n. An agreement to do something that is so indefinite that only one side has to perform. It mostly takes the form of a gesture and not an actual agreement. 

EX: An illusory promise is almost never enforced by courts because there is no consideration on one side.

Implied consent 

n. A term used to describe consent when the surrounding situation would make a reasonable person believe that consent has been given. This occurs without any direct, express, or explicit words uttered of an agreement. 

EX: Miranda recently offered a construction company $7,000 to build her a new deck in her backyard. If she does not hear back from the construction company, but days later sees them in her backyard beginning construction of the deck, she can assume that implied consent of the offer has been given. 

Implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing 

n. An expectation that people will act fairly and in good faith in the negotiations of contracts. 

EX: Every contract is entered into under the assumption of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Implied warranty 

n. The assumption that products work to their expectations. In other words, they are “merchantable”. However, there can be no expectation of an implied warranty if the product is sold with the warning, “as is”. 

EX:  If you buy a new Samsung television, there is an implied warranty that the product will turn on, display television and shows through streaming devices and otherwise function as an ordinary television would.

Impossibility 

n. Due to unforeseen events, a contract can become mutually cancelled because it cannot be performed. 

EX: COVID-19 may have caused a lot of contracts to become impossible to perform.

Impound 

 v. To collect funds, in addition to installment payments, from a person who owes a debt secured by property, and place them in a special account to pay property taxes and insurance when due. 

EX: If you have an impound account with a mortgage company, it is used for tax and insurance payments and not for mortgage payments. 

In rem 

adj Referring to a lawsuit regarding real property. 

EX: An in rem lawsuit may arise over property located in New York City.

Indemnify 

v. To guarantee against any loss of which another party may endure.

EX: Ryan recently brought his car to the repair shop. The repair shop loaned Ryan a loaner car under the agreement that Ryan would indemnify the repair shop for any injuries resulting from his use of the car. A few days later he caused a crash that led to serious injuries of Bob. If Bob sues the repair shop, Ryan will be liable as he indemnified the repair shop in the loaner car agreement. 

Injunction 

n. An order issued by a court directing a party to do something. To the contrary, the order could also prohibit them from doing something. 

EX: Ryan is seeking an injunction against Bob to prohibit Bob from knocking down a tree.

Insider

n. Someone who holds a position which permits them to be privy to confidential information. This is usually in a corporation or stock brokerage and the confidential information could have an affect on the value of particular stocks. 

EX: In the movie Wall Street, Bud Fox’s father works for Bluestar Airlines and in a private casual conversation between the two, his father reveals insider information to Bud who uses it to persuade Gordon Gekko to become one of his clients. 

Installment contracts 

n. An agreement in which payment or performance is to be accomplished in a series of actions. Those actions are commonly performed on specific dates or are contingent on certain events occurring. 

EX: Installment contracts are most common in vehicle and home sales where the buyer conducts a series of transactions over a period of time. 

Intrinsic fraud 

n. An intentional misrepresentation that is part of the fraud. It could potentially lead to punitive damages. 

EX: Perjury in a lawsuit, like when Lil Kim lied about the 2001 gunfight outside a NY radio station, is an example of intrinsic fraud.

Irreparable damage or injury 

n. A serious harm of which no monetary compensation can cure or put conditions back the way they were. 

EX: If someone takes an heirloom that’s been in your family for 200 years, you may have a case for irreparable damage because money alone cannot replace the 200 year old heirloom given its massive history and sentimental value.  . 

Joint and several 

adj. Referring to a debt in which the debtors are each responsible for the full amount of the debt or judgment.

EX: Under joint and several liability, creditors may sue one debtor for the entire portion of debt they are owed.

Joint venture 

n. An enterprise entered into by two or more people for profit. Most commonly used for a limited purpose, such as purchase, improvement and sale or leasing of real estate. 

EX: Uber and Volvo have joined forces in a joint venture to build out self-driving cars.  

Jurisdiction 

n. The authority of  a court to hold cases and rule on legal matters within a particular geographic area. Also includes authority over specific areas of law. 

EX: Although Jake is a Minnesota resident, he will be subject to New York jurisdiction based on his car crash injuring several people in Times Square.

Just compensation 

n. Fair and reasonable compensation for work performed. It is used to make one “whole” for damages incurred due to loss. 

EX: If someone takes your new $400,000 Ferrari ford a drive and crashes it, then just compensation will be the difference between $400,000 and what it’s worth now (in crashed condition).  

n. The shorthand symbol for “contract” used almost universally. 

EX: K is the universal symbol for a contract.  Not to be confused with the shorthand texting symbol “Kk” which is for “Ok, Ok.”

Liability 

n. The legal responsibility of one’s acts or failure to act. 

EX: In the massive tobacco lawsuits a few years ago, courts found that liability was with Phillip Morris for consumers’ health issues.  

Lien 

n. Any official claim against property. Could also be  funds for payment of a debt or an amount owed for services rendered. 

EX: All mortgagee lenders will lend homeowners money with a lien attached on their house.

Limited Liability 

n. A legal term for a person’s financial liability. That liability is limited to a fixed sum most commonly based off the person’s investment in the business they are participating in. 

EX: Michael and Brandon created a partnership because they did not want to start a business with personal liability, but rather just limited liability.

Limited partnership 

n. A type of partnership which is commonly used when people require funding for a business, or when they are putting together an investment in a real estate development.

EX: Michael reassured Craig that in a limited partnership, you are only liable for the amount you invest.

Liquidated damages 

n. The amount of money agreed upon by both parties to a contract of which one will pay to the other upon breaching the agreement.

EX: Joseph agreed to pay Marcus liquidated damages in the amount of $50,000 if Joseph breached the contract.

Material 

adj. Relevant and significant. Of much importance in law. 

EX: Dave’s basement leaks like a sieve. He decides to dry it out, paint the water stains and sell it. A material misrepresentation occurs when Dave fails to inform the new buyer that the basement leaks like a sieve.  

Maturity 

n. The date of which the payment of the principal amount owed under the terms of a promissory note becomes due. 

EX: After four long years of paying off the loan, the maturity date has finally arrived and Ben has made his final payment on the loan.

Misrepresentation 

n. The act of falsely stating facts in order to procure money, goods, or benefits to which they are not entitled to. 

EX: Christina sold a real lemon of a car to Mia. Christina said it runs great and has no mechanical problems. A misrepresentation occurred when Chritsina did not tell Mia about the severe oil leak from the engine of the car.

Mitigation of damages 

n. The requirement that someone injured by another’s negligence or breach of contract must take reasonable steps to reduce the damages, injury or cost, and to prevent them from getting worse. 

EX: In NYC if you vacate your apartment prematurely, the doctrine of  mitigation of damages usually requires that the landlord try to rent your apartment as quickly as possible in order to reduce your exposure for leaving early.  

Modification 

n. Due to a change in circumstances, this occurs as a change to an existing court order or judgment made to cure an error.

Ex: Many courts permit modifications in the event there was an error to be amended.

Naturalization 

N. The process used by a foreign citizen to get U.S. citizenship after they meet the specific requirements for doing so. 

EX: Bob has completed the process of naturalization, thereby making him a US citizen. 

Negligence 

n. Failure to exercise due care toward others with which a reasonable person would do in the exact situation.

EX: Donna is suing a Walmart for negligence after slipping and falling where a bottle of coconut milk was left open on the floor, yet no “wet floor” sign was present.

Nominal damages 

n. A small amount of money awarded to a plaintiff in a lawsuit to show he/she was right but suffered no substantial harm. 

EX: The most famous case of nominal damages was when Prime Minister Winston Churchill was awarded a shilling (about 25 cents) in a libel lawsuit he had brought against author Louis Adamic for writing that Churchill had been drunk during a dinner at the White House. There were no damages because Churchill was a known drunk, and therefore it didn’t hurt his reputation.  

Notice 

n. Information, usually in writing in all legal proceedings, of all documents filed, decisions, requests, motions, petitions, and upcoming dates. 

EX: Rick’s attorney notified him that if he wanted to sue his co-worker, he would need to provide him with notice of the lawsuit.

Obligee

n. The person or entity to whom an obligation is owed.

EX: In the movie Kramer v Kramer, Joanna is awarded the child and is due child support from her ex-husband, making her the obligee of the child support payments. 

Obligor

n. The person or entity who owes an obligation to another.

EX: In Kramer v Kramer, Ted is the obligor as he must pay Joanna child support.

Occupational disease

n. Due to long term employment, this is the term for an illness that arises from the workplace. 

EX: A class action suit may be commenced by co-workers against their company for an occupational disease that was similarly caused against all of them by the company.

Occupational hazard

n. A danger or risk inherent in certain employment or workplaces. 

EX: Many co-workers must accept occupational hazards as part of their job.

Offer

n. A proposal to enter into a contractual agreement with another.

EX: Robert offered a contract of employment to Patrick for 3 years.

Offeree

n. A person or entity to whom an offer to enter into a contract is made by another.

EX: Demi Moore (and indirectly Woody Harrelson) was the offeree in the movie Indecent Proposal.  

Offeror

n. A person or entity who makes a specific proposal to another to enter into a contract.

EX: In Indecent Proposal, Robert Redford offered $1 million to spend the night with Demi Moore, so he would be considered the offeror.

Offshore corporation

n. A corporation chartered under the laws of a country other than the United States with the benefit of little corporate regulation or taxes and only moderate management fees. 

EX: Most offshore corporations are created because of the tax benefits they provide outside of America; they are, however, sometimes associated with tax avoidance schemes.  

Option

n. A right to purchase property or require another to perform upon agreed-upon terms. 

EX: Various companies offer stock options for employees to utilize later in their employment. 

Oral contract

n. An agreement that is not put or only partially put in writing, but mainly comprising of spoken words. 

EX: Timmy promised me he would bring me a pizza every night this week after I beat him at basketball.  I didn’t get that in writing, but maybe it’s enforceable as an oral contract.

Order to show cause

n. A judge’s written mandate that a party appear in court on a specific date and give reasons, legal and/or factual, why a particular order should not be granted

EX: Judges issue an order to show cause regularly.

Performance

n. Fulfillment of one’s obligations required by contract. 

EX: Performance under his contract with the Buccaneers means Tom Brady must show up at training camp and practice with the team. 

Petition

1) n. A formal written request to a court. Commonly ask for the court to grant a particular order. This is not the same as a complaint. 

EX: If you want to change a law, present a petition to the legislature. 

Power of attorney

n. A written document that authorizes a person to act on behalf of another in conducting the other person’s business. 

EX: A mother gave her daughter power of attorney, so that she could handle her financial affairs. 

Privileged communication

n. Statements made in confidence that may not be disclosed to others that are not part of the confidential communications. 

EX: A privileged communication between an attorney and client may not be shared among other people by the attorney, a leading dynamic of ours here at JustLaw.

Pro se

prep. Latin for “for himself.” A party to a lawsuit who represents himself.

Ex: Now that you are a friend of JustLaw, you should never go it “pro se”.

Probate

n. The process of proving a will is valid and thereafter administering the estate of the deceased in accordance with the terms of the will. 

EX: If you are dissatisfied with the terms of a will, seek justice in probate court. 

Probation

n. An order given by the judge given to a person convicted of a crime, that permits them to remain free and not in the confines of prison. The order is commonly subject to specific terms. 

EX: Brian Banks was a rising football star who was wrongfully accused and sentenced to years of prison time and probation

Punitive damages

n. Damages awarded in a lawsuit as a punishment. They are awarded as a deterrent to others for malicious, evil or particularly fraudulent acts.

EX: Punitive damages are requested regularly by estates of victims of murder.

Refugee

n. A person who has escaped their own country because of an impending or current war or persecution. 

EX: According to Wikipedia, the Fugees took their group name from the refugees as it was often used to describe Haitan-Americans, like Wyclef Jean.   

Reliance

n. Acting upon another’s statement of alleged fact, claim, or promise. 

EX: If you started to buy supplies to paint a house and the homeowner cancels the contract, you have the opportunity to sue for detrimental reliance.

Security deposit

n. A payment required  to cover the expenses of any repairs of damages to the premises greater than normal “wear and tear.” Most commonly used in landlord-tenant agreements. 

EX: if you do not damage the premises during your AirBnB stay, you should receive your security deposit back. 

Security interest

n. Generic term for the property rights of a lender or creditor whose right to collect a debt is secured by property.

EX: A mortgage lender almost always has a security interest in your house upon providing you with a loan. 

Shareholders’ agreement

n. An employment agreement among the shareholders of a small corporation, permitting a particular shareholder to take a management position with the corporation without any claim of conflict of interest or self-dealing against the shareholder/manager. 

EX: Doing business with family is hard, so if you and your brother are going to start a company together, you must be sure to prepare a shareholders agreement that outlines all your and his rights to the company. 

Succession

n. The statutory rules of inheritance of a deceased person’s estate. This comes into fruition when the property is not discussed in the terms of a will.

EX: The cable show Succession doesn’t really have anything to do with a legal succession

Summary judgment

n. A court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action in a complaint can be decided on without a trial.

EX: A motion for summary judgment will not be granted if the plaintiff contends that the light was red, while the defendant claims that the light was still yellow when he drove through it. 

Trademark

n. A type of intellectual property consisting of a recognizable sign or design. This is used to distinguish products from other products based off their designs. 

EX: Nike’s swoosh trademark is so sick.

Usury

n. A rate of interest on a debt which is exorbitant and in excess of the percentage permitted by law. 

EX: Although Kathy did not want to pay the interest rate attached to the loan shark’s usury, he needed money to pay for his kid’s emergency surgery. 

Visa

n. Status marked on a passport indicating that the person may enter and stay in a country for a specific period of time. 

EX: As an American, when you enter the United Kingdom at Heathrow, you can only stay for 180 days without a special visa

Will

n. A written document which leaves the estate of the person, who signed the will, to named persons or entities.

EX: In the movie Knives Out, all the children of Harlan Thrombey fight over his will.

Will contest

n. A lawsuit challenging the validity of a will and/or its terms. 

EX: Instead of fighting each other over the will, the children in Knives out should have pursued a will contest

Work product

n. The files, documents and confidential materials an attorney produces for a client, particularly in preparation for trial. 

EX: An opposing attorney will be unsuccessful in attempting to procure the opposing attorney’s work product in court.

Wrongful termination

n. A right of an employee to sue his/her employer for damages based on their prior employment. 

EX: Sue your former employer for lost wages if you have a case for wrongful termination

Your honor

 The proper way to address a judge in court.

EX: Vincent Gambini had to address the Judge as “Your Honor” when he had to correct his pronunciation of “youts” to “youths”.

 

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