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Prima Facie Case (Legal Definition: All You Need To Know)

What is Prima Facie Case?

How do you establish a prima facie case?

What are the elements that you need to prove?

Keep reading as I have gathered exactly the information that you need!

Let me explain to you what prima facie evidence means and why it’s important!

Are you ready?

Let’s get started!

What Is A Prima Facie Case

A prima facie case refers to an initial evaluation where a party has the burden to prove that the case they are bringing forward to the court is based on sufficient evidence to eventually succeed with the claim.

In Latin, prima facie means “at first sight”.

In essence, a prima facie case is one where, at first sight, the claim is legally justified to be presented to the court and may have a possible chance of success.

When a plaintiff does not have a prima facie case, the defendant can present a motion to dismiss in an attempt to have the court reject the lawsuit from the outset on the basis that the plaintiff does not have any possible chances of winning the case.

If a case is found to have enough prima facie evidence allowing it to proceed to trial, it does not mean that the plaintiff’s case or defendant’s defense is guaranteed to win.

All it means is that there is “sufficient” evidence to deserve that the court hear the matter and render a judgment on the merits of the case.

A prima facie case is an opportunity for the plaintiff to present a preview of the case to the court and demonstrate that the case has sufficient merit to go to trial.

It’s like an initial triage of the legal cases.

When you go to the emergency room, you are first seen by a nurse to assess the severity of your emergency, and then they determine if you can see a doctor or not.

If there are sufficient signs of illness, you’ll proceed to see a doctor.

Otherwise, you will be sent home.

In the courts, having a prima facie case is when you pass the initial trial and are given the chance to proceed to eventually see a judge.

Your case has sufficient evidence to support all the elements that need to be proven deserving possibly a hearing on its merits.

Burden of Proof

In most legal cases, the party presenting a case to the court or filing legal action will have to demonstrate that it has prima facie evidence to possibly succeed in court in relation to all the essential facts of the case.

In other words, the plaintiff or claimant will have the burden of proof to demonstrate that its claim is well-founded.

A case may be rejected by the court as the judge considers that it’s so apparent that it will not have any chances of success.

The opposing party may also present arguments to the court as to how the essential elements of the case are not supported by evidence and so the claimant’s action has no chance of success.

Prima Facie Case Definition

Now, let’s define prima facie case.

To understand what a prima facie case means, let’s first define the Latin phrase “prima facie”.

Prima facie in Latin means “at first glace”.

According to the Legal Information Institute, prima facie:

May be used as an adjective meaning “sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted.”
Author

Prima facie can also be:

Used as an adverb meaning “on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information.”
Author

Based on that, we can say that the prima facie case legal definition is the establishment of a legal presumption that the cause of action or a party’s defense is sufficiently supported in fact and law to proceed to trial.

This legal presumption can be rebutted by another party to the proceeding by demonstrating that the claim or defense has no possible chance of success and as such does not meet the minimum viable threshold to even proceed to trial.

According to the Dictonary.com, a prima facie case means:

A case in which the evidence produce is sufficient to enable a decision or verdict to be made unless the evidence is rebutted
Author

Prima Facie Case Example

Let’s look at a few examples of prima facie cases to better illustrate the concept.

Prima Facie Case In Criminal Law

One example of a prima facie case can be considered in criminal law.

When the prosecutor files a criminal lawsuit against a criminal defendant, it has the burden to demonstrate that it has a prima facie case.

In other words, the prosecutor must be able to demonstrate some basic elements of the charges allowing the court to consider, at first glance, that there is a potential that the defendant is found guilty of the charges.

Prima Facie Case In Civil Law

In the context of a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff filing a complaint against the defendant should make sure to have the prima facie case elements allowing the court to conclude, at the outset, that there are merits to the claim.

For example, if a person files a lawsuit for personal injury, the plaintiff will have a show a prima facie case of negligence for the claim to resist a possible motion to dismiss.

Another example is the tort of trespassing.

In the context of a civil lawsuit relating to tort of trespass, the plaintiff will have to demonstrate three prima facie case elements:

  • The defendant intended to trespass
  • The defended in fact trespassed 
  • The plaintiff possessed the land and did ntot consent to the defendant’s invasion 

Prima Facie Case Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s look at a few common questions related to prima facie cases.

What does prima facie mean

A prima facie case is a case where based on first impression, it has sufficient legal grounds to proceed to trial and win.

In common English, we’ll use the phrase the case has merit “on the face of it”.

In the context of civil law and criminal law, when there’s a prima facie case, it means that the plaintiff or defendant has enough evidence to support the claims made.

What is required to establish a prima facie case of negligence 

What is a prima facie case of negligence you may ask?

Essentially, a prima facie case of negligence is a case where the plaintiff filing a lawsuit for negligence has sufficient evidence to corroborate the elements of negligence, namely:

  • The defendant owed duty of care
  • The defendant breached its duty of care
  • The breach of teh duty of care resulted in damages to the plaintiff 

How to establish a prima facie case

To establish a prima facie case, it’s important that you have a good understanding of what are the legal elements that you need to prove to win your case.

Once you know what are the elements to prove and understand your burden of proof, you will then need to ensure that you have enough evidence presented in your lawsuit to support each essential element of your case.

When a court will eventually look at your case, it must be able to say that there’s enough evidence presented in your case that can “potentially” lead to judgment in your favor.

What is prima facie evidence by third-party documents

In Section 1-307 of the Uniform Commercial Code, a document in due form to be a bill of lading, policy, certificate of insurance, official weigher’s certificate, inspector certificate, consular invoice, or any other document issued by a third party is prima facie evidence of its authenticity and genuineness.

In other words, a third-party document makes prima facie evidence of the facts it contains along with the document’s authenticity and genuineness.

Prima Facie Case Meaning Takeaways 

So there you have it folks!

What is prima facie case in simple terms?

A prima facie case or prima facie legal claim is one that has sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and eventually succeed.

For example, if a person files a civil lawsuit against another for breach of contract, the plaintiff must demonstrate that “at first view” or “on the face of the case”, there’s enough evidence to show that it had a contract with the defendant, there may have been a breach, and damages caused to the plaintiff.

Before the case proceeds to trial, the court will assess whether or not it’s worth examining the case in detail by assessing if there’s a prima facie case.

In other words, the court evaluates if the case is supported by enough evidence that the plaintiff may possibly succeed in proving that the breach of contract caused it certain damages. 

A party filing a lawsuit that at first sight appears to be supported by evidence is not guaranteed to win the case.

Having a prima facie case allows you to maintain your legal action and allow the proceedings to move forward and proceed eventually to trial.

However, for the party to win, it must succeed in proving the cause of action and elements of the case.

I hope I was able to explain to you what a prima facie legal case means and its legal implications.

If you are looking to file a lawsuit, be sure to consult with a qualified attorney for advice on your case to ensure that you structure your claim in such a way that you can succeed in court.

Good luck!

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Now, let’s look at a summary of our findings.

Understanding Prima Facie Case

  • Prima face case refers to a case that appears to be well supported with evidence to possibly win on its merits
  • In Latin, “prima facie” means “at first glance”, “at first view”, or “on the face of it”
  • For a lawsuit or legal action to proceed to trial, the claim must be sufficiently backed by evidence, otherwise, the case may be dismissed at the outset
  • When the prosecutor initials a criminal action against a person, the prosecutor must have prima facie evidence to support all the essential elements of the charge
  • In a civil lawsuit, a plaintiff that sues another party must have prima facie evidence to prove all the essential elements of the lawsuit
Affirmative defense meaning 
Arraignment definition 
Burden of proof 
Class action definition 
Defeasible reasoning 
Disparate impact 
Duty of care definition 
Engagement letter 
Fiduciary duty definition
Legal presumption 
Letter of representation 
Petition definition 
Probable cause
Proximate cause
Reasonable doubt definition
Res ipsa loquitur 
What is a pre-trial hearing
Author
Binding contract
Breach of contract 
Civil lawsuit
Culpa in contrahendo 
Fraud in the inducement 
Implied contract
Illusory promise 
Misrepresentation meaning
Mistake definition
Mutatis mutandis 
Negligence definition 
Operation of law 
Promissory estoppel
Quasi contract
Tortious interference 
UCC 1 307
UCC 1 308
UCC 1 309
Unilateral contract
Unilateral mistake
Without prejudice
Author
Editorial Staff
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer by trade and an entrepreneur by spirit. I specialize in law, business, marketing, and technology (and love it!). I'm an expert SEO and content marketer where I deeply enjoy writing content in highly competitive fields. On this blog, I share my experiences, knowledge, and provide you with golden nuggets of useful information. Enjoy!

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