The Latin term “prima facie” loosely translates to “at first sight.” It means that a case appears to have merit. Think of it as a car idling at a red light. Even if you didn’t step closer to look inside, you’d have reasonable cause to believe that a driver was behind the wheel and car’s engine was running. The facts logically lead to this conclusion and the same applies to a prima facie case.
A prima facie case isn’t necessarily a sure win. Although courts require that you have a prima facie case in order to initiate a lawsuit, the other party has a right to attempt to prove at trial that the apparent facts of your case aren’t accurate. If he’s successful, the court will rule in his favor.
Effect on Proceedings
Certain criminal matters are presented to a grand jury and these proceedings are decided based on whether the prosecutor has a prima facie case. A grand jury doesn’t decide if a defendant is guilty or innocent. It only makes a decision as to whether the prosecution has presented sufficient evidence to establish that a crime has occurred and defendant should stand trial for it. In civil matters, such as small claims or divorce actions, the court will assume the plaintiff’s prima facie case is an accurate reflection of the facts if the defendant doesn’t file an answer or otherwise make an effort to defend himself. In such a case, the judge will typically award the plaintiff whatever he asked for in his lawsuit.
- Photo Credit junial/iStock/Getty Images
What Are the Elements of Proof Required in Criminal Cases?
What Are the Elements of Proof Required in Criminal Cases?. The most basic rule of law is that the accused is presumed...
Seven Prima Facie Duties
Scottish philosopher William David Ross constructed the seven prima facie duties as a basis for his ethical theory. Born in 1877, Ross...
How to File a Motion to Show Probable Cause
The specific requirements for a motion to show probable cause, frequently known as a show cause motion, vary based on the jurisdiction...
Elements of Negligence in Florida
A tort is defined as a civil wrong --- as opposed to a criminal wrong --- from which damages or injury occur....