Legal Glossary

Glossary of Nursing Home Abuse Law Terms


Abuse: corrupt, improper or excessive use or treatment of a person or entity. Abuse can be emotional, verbal, physical mental, financial or sexual.

Acute Care: a branch of secondary health care categorized by active, short-term care given to patients with a high change of recovery. In cases of people 65 and older, acute care for illness or injury is part of the Medicare benefits package.

Admissible Evidence: any testimonial, documentary or tangible evidence that may be introduced in a court of law to establish a point. Admissible evidence must be relevant, reliable, and not unfairly prejudicial.

Adult Day Care: private, at-home care or community center caregivers trained to support adults with cognitive and physical difficulties, including Alzheimer’s and dementia. Services may include meals, therapy, and specialized programs.

Advance Directive for Health Care: a written document, such as a living will, that guides medical decision-making after a person becomes incapacitated. A person may also grant someone else permission to act as a surrogate and make choices on their behalf using a health care power of attorney or durable power of attorney.

Adverse Event: any undesirable experience associated with the use of a medical product, potentially leading to death, hospitalization, disability, damage or other life-threatening issues. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration tracks adverse events and encourages the public to report them.

Affirmative Defense: a fact or set of facts other than those alleged by the plaintiff or prosecutor that can defeat or mitigate the legal consequences of the defendant’s otherwise unlawful conduct. Affirmative defenses, which differ for criminal and civil lawsuits, may include statutes of limitations, contributory negligence, duress, self-defense or insanity.

Appellate Court: any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court or other lower tribunal. An appellate court is also known as an appeals court, court of appeals, appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court.

Arbitration: the resolution of a dispute outside of court in the presence of a mutually agreed-upon impartial third party (arbitrator, arbiters), who decides on a legally binding arbitration award. Arbitration is considered a form of alternative dispute resolution.

Arbitration Agreement: an agreement to arbitrate any dispute involving physical injury, wrongful death or facility negligence outside of court, often made at the time of admission to a nursing home. In some cases, state courts view these agreements as unconstitutional.

Assisted-Living Facility: a housing facility offering a wide range of options, levels of care, and services, often including meals, housekeeping, and transportation. Also referred to as ALFs, assisted-living facilities do not provide trained medical care like nursing homes.


Battery: a criminal offense characterized by the unlawful use of force, such as a beating or other wrongful act of physical violence. Based on the circumstances, battery may be treated as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Bedsore: an injury to skin and underlying tissue resulting from prolonged, unrelieved pressure. Also called pressure sores or decubitus ulcers, bedsores commonly develop on bony areas of the body, such as the elbows, heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone.

Bed Rail Entrapment: when a person becomes entangled, caught or trapped in the space between the rail and the mattress of a bed frame. Bed rail entrapment may be fatal.

Beneficiary: a person entitled to receive money or other benefits or proceeds from a will, trust, insurance policy, annuity, retirement plan or contract. Individuals who receive benefits from Medicaid and Medicare are also referred to as beneficiaries.

Bench Trial: a trial by judge, also known as a court trial, such as any administrative hearing related to a minor offense. The judge makes decisions without the support of a jury in a bench trial.

Board and Care Home: a smaller housing facility that provides assistance with daily care. Also known as residential care facilities, board and care homes do not provide skilled nursing care.

Braden Scale: a scale used to help health professionals measure a patient’s bedsore risk. The Braden scale has six criteria: sensory perception, moisture, activity, mobility, nutrition, and friction and shear. The Braden scale was developed in 1987 by Barbara Braden and Nancy Bergstrom.

Burden of Proof: the duty or obligation to affirmatively prove a fact or point using evidence. The burden of proof usually falls on the person who brings the claim in a legal dispute between two parties.


Caregiver: a family member or paid helper who provides daily living assistance for a sick, elderly, or disabled person. Caregivers may be certified nursing assistants, spouses, partners, adult children, parents or other relatives or professionals.

Care Plan: a written plan of patient care based on a diagnosis. Care plans are used to document and communicate the journey of a patient’s treatment.

Case Law: a set of laws, also known as common law, established by previous rulings in respective jurisdictions. Case law is used to establish a precedent that guides future cases.

Cause of Action: a set of facts that justify a right to sue to obtain money, property or the enforcement of a right. The cause of action enables a person to bring an action against another party in court.

Chronic Illness: a long-term illness that may cause someone to be unable to meet their daily needs. Patients with chronic illnesses often must adjust to the demands of the illness and its treatment.

Civil Action: a lawsuit between private parties. Civil actions are brought to enforce private rights in United States court, often seeking recovery of damages.

Civil Law: a system of law concerned with private rights and liabilities involving members of a community rather than criminal, military or religious affairs. Civil law is based on brief, general legal codes.

Civil Procedure: rules and standards for civil cases. Civil procedure outlines the governing and process of a case, including trial preparation, rules of evidence, trial conduct, and appeals.

Claim: the facts indicating a cause of action, alleged fault, and rights to recovery. A statement of claim asserts a demand for money, property or enforcement of a right provided by law.

Class Action: a type of lawsuit where one of the parties collectively represents a larger group. In the United States, one or more plaintiffs are permitted to file and prosecute a lawsuit on behalf of a class.

Clear and Convincing Evidence: highly and substantially probable evidence that falls under the burden of proof. The evidence must cause the jury or judge to have a firm belief in its factuality.

Closing Argument: a summation and concluding statement given after all evidence has been presented in court. The closing argument occurs when the counsel for both parties reiterates the arguments for the judge or jury.

Cognitive Impairment: a broad term that encompasses an impaired state or way of being caused by disease or brain damage. Patients with cognitive impairment may have memory loss or difficulty learning, concentrating, processing information or making decisions.

Comparative Fault: a rule derived from admiralty law stating that each party involved is required to pay a share of the total damages in proportion to its percentage of fault

Comparative Negligence: a legal defense that measures negligence by percentage and seeks to partially compensate the injured party. The rule identifies the patient’s responsibility for their own injury and reduces the amount of damages that a plaintiff can recover by this amount.

Complaint: a formal legal document that outlines the facts and causes of action that support the filing parties who brought the case. The complaint establishes the plaintiff’s entitlement to damages or relief against the defendant.

Conservatorship: when a guardian is given the right to manage the property, financial affairs, and/or daily life of an adult who is mentally incapacitated. A judge appoints the guardian to the person under conservatorship, also known as a conservatee.

Contingent Fee: legal fees paid for services provided only when there is a successful outcome in or outside of court. Contingent fees are based on a percentage of the recovery; usually, one-third of the client’s award is considered standard.

Contributory Negligence: a legal defense used in cases of negligence to determine a plaintiff’s liability. The rule identifies the patient’s responsibility for their own injury and bars or reduces the damage award or recovery.

Corroborating Evidence: supplementary evidence supporting a claim made with initial evidence. Corroborating evidence is used to strengthen or confirm an original proposition.

Counsel: a lawyer or a team of legal advisers involved in the trial or management of a court case. Counsel is appointed to advise and represent individual clients or entities in legal matters.

Court Costs: legal expenses stemming from prosecuting or defending a lawsuit. Court costs, not including attorney fees, may be recoverable from the losing party.


Damages: an award given to compensate a person for a loss or injury caused by unlawful acts or negligence. Damages, usually a sum of money, can vary based on the claim and jurisdiction.

Damage Cap: a limit on the amount of non-economic damages that may be awarded or recovered in a case. Non-economic damages include emotional distress and pain and suffering, and they may be fixed by state laws or calculated based on medical bills.

Declaratory Judgment: a declaration that resolves uncertainty by conclusively affirming a plaintiff’s legal rights. It’s a statutory remedy used to rule on the obligations of parties in a civil dispute.

Default Judgment: a judgment between two parties based on one party’s failure to take action. A default judgment is usually in favor of a plaintiff when the defendant has failed to appear or respond to a summons.

Defendant: an individual or entity accused of committing a crime and sued by a plaintiff in a court of law. The defendant is the person defending or denying the suit and the need for relief.

Deposition: testimony under oath recorded as evidence outside of the courtroom. The written transcript is used later for discovery or in court.

Discharge Planner: a health-care professional who handles placement for patients leaving a facility. Discharge planners ensure that patients are released to an environment with the proper level of care, such as a nursing home or rehabilitation facility.

Discovery: a pre-trial procedure for obtaining facts about a case by requesting answers, documents, and depositions. Discoveries may be compelled using subpoenas.

Discovery Rule: a rule in tort law that indicates that the statute of limitations does not begin until an injured person discovers or reasonably should have discovered their injury.

Dismissal: the termination of a lawsuit with or without prejudice. It is the result of a successful motion to dismiss.

Docket: a formal record of court proceedings. A docket is a summary or listing of all pleadings in a case or a list of legal cases to be tried.


Economic Damages: compensation for objectively verifiable monetary losses, such as past and future medical expenses, loss of past and future earnings, loss of use of property, costs of repair or replacement, the economic value of domestic services, and loss of employment or business opportunities

Elder Abuse: a single or repeated act or lack of appropriate action occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust that causes harm or distress to an older person. Elder abuse may be physical, emotional or financial, and it may occur in a nursing home.

Elder Care: care of seniors by family members, nursing homes or paid caregivers. Elder care helps seniors with daily tasks and functioning and may take place for an extended period of time.

Emotional Abuse: a pattern of harmful behavior characterized by verbal insults, cognitive manipulation, bullying, gaslighting, and/or a power imbalance. Also known as psychological abuse, emotional abuse can cause isolation, anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Estate: the collective sum of money, property, and possessions owned at death. An estate is dispersed according to the provisions of a will by a personal representative known as an executor.

Exhibit: a weapon, contract, photo, video or other artifact that becomes documentary evidence. The exhibit is presented to the jury during a trial.

Ex Parte Proceeding: a motion, hearing or order granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only, such as a restraining order or search warrant. Ex parte proceedings occur when both parties don’t have to be present, often as an emergency request or pending a formal hearing.


Federal Register: the official journal of the federal government of the United States, which is published daily. It contains proposed rules, regulations, and public notices.

Filing Fee: the fee for filing legal documents. When a document is filed, it becomes a formal record with the clerk of court.

Financial Abuse: a form of abuse when an individual has engaged in illegal or unauthorized use of another’s property, money, other valuables or power of attorney. Financial abuse can have a lasting impact on an elder’s quality of life.

Food and Drug Administration: a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The FDA regulates drugs, medical devices, biological products, food, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.

Fraud: a criminal act used to manipulate another for financial or personal gain. Fraud is a form of intentional deception.


Grand Jury: a legal body, normally of 23 jurors, selected to investigate criminal conduct and determine if charges should be brought. The jury receives complaints and examines the validity of an accusation before trial.

Guardian: a person who has legal authority to protect and care for a person and/or their property. A guardian may be appointed to an incapacitated or disabled adult.

Guardianship: a duty of responsibility for overseeing the needs of an incapacitated or disabled adult. It also gives the guardian the legal power to make financial and medical decisions.


Hearing: a formal court proceeding where legal cases are presented and parties are heard. Hearings may involve a preliminary examination, listening to an argument or recording witness testimony.

Hearsay: a statement repeated by a secondhand source. Hearsay is not usually considered admissible evidence in court.

Hospice Care: a form of supportive care given during the final stages of life. Hospice care is usually provided to ensure maximum comfort, minimal pain, and the best possible quality of life during a terminal illness.

Hung Jury: a jury that cannot agree on a verdict. Also known as a deadlocked jury, a hung jury does not reach the required unanimity or supermajority.


Immunity: exemption from legal action granted by authorities or statutes. Public officials, government agencies, and diplomats may be granted immunity.

Inadmissible Evidence: evidence that will not be received by the judge or jury. A judge determines what evidence is admissible based on the rules of evidence.

Incapacity: a temporary or permanent mental state characterized by incompetence, disability, illness or substance abuse that results in an inability to make decisions. Incapacity can result in legal disqualification.

Indigent: a person who doesn’t have adequate income to afford legal counsel. Courts appoint a public defender or other attorney to represent an indigent defendant.

Injunction: a remedy ordered by the court to compel a person to engage in or refrain from a specific act. Failure to comply with an injunction may result in being found in contempt of court, monetary sanctions or imprisonment.

Intentional Tort: a civil wrong involving a violation of the law on purpose. The alleged wrongdoer is referred to as the tortfeasor.

Interrogatories: a formal set or series of written questions posed to a litigant to discover information about a case. Interrogatories determine which facts will be presented at trial.

Intervention: a procedure to allow a third party to join ongoing litigation. Intervention may be a matter of right or at the discretion of the court, without the permission of the original litigants.

Involuntary Seclusion: a form of mistreatment that involves prohibiting a nursing home resident from interacting with others in personal or common spaces. Federal and state laws protect against involuntary seclusion, which is known to be a form of psychologically harmful abuse.


Joint and Several Liability: a situation in which a claimant may recover all damages from any of the defendants as if they were jointly liable. The liable parties are responsible for sorting out their respective proportions of payment.

Judge: a public officer who presides over the court. Judges are appointed to rule on cases in a court of law.

Judgment: an official decision of the court dictating the rights, liabilities, and claims of parties to a legal action or proceeding. A judgment explains the reasoning behind the court’s decision.

Jurisdiction: the authority of the court to hear, try, and rule on legal matters. Jurisdiction, decided based on geographic location, indicates the legal cases a court has power to hear.

Jury: a group of adults selected to decide a verdict. A jury is sworn in to try a question of fact or indict a person for a public offense.


Lawsuit: a legal action or proceeding in a civil court or between two private parties. Lawsuits are filed when a claim or dispute is brought for adjudication.

Legal Process: formal documents served to a party to exercise a court’s jurisdiction over people and/or property. Legal process may consist of a valid order, notice or writ from the court, such as a summons, mandate, subpoena or warrant.

Letters of Administration: a legal document granting a person legal authority to manage a deceased person’s estate. Letters of administration are issued when there is no valid will.

Letters Testamentary: a legal document granting an executor authority over a deceased person’s estate. Letters testamentary are issued by the court clerk after the executor files an applicable security bond.

Liable: legally responsible for an act or a failure to act proven by a claimant through various theories of liability. Liability may result in damages or a court order.

Liability Insurance: an insurance policy designed to cover negligence claims. Liability insurance helps accused individuals pay off their damages.

Lien: a formal legal document signed by a debtor who agrees to repay funds related to property or services. A lien provides the right to sell the property to repay the debt.

Litigant: any party to a lawsuit. A litigant is also referred to as a plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, cross-complainant or cross-defendant.

Litigation: a legal action, also known as a lawsuit, and its related proceedings. In litigation, the courts decide on a legal question or matter.

Living Trust: a trust created during the lifetime of the grantor. In a living trust, property titles are transferred to the trustee.

Long-Term Care: a form of care that includes medical, social, and housing services. Long-term care helps people perform everyday activities and manage chronic health problems

Long-Term Care Ombudsman: a state official who coordinates advocates for the rights of nursing home residents. The ombudsman provides statistics on nursing home facilities and helps to resolve disputes and complaints.

Loss of Consortium: a loss of services or benefits caused by injuries to a family member. Loss of consortium arising from personal injuries may result in damages paid to a spouse or other family member.


Mediation: a process in which both parties bring their dispute before a neutral third party, a mediator, in order to help them agree on a settlement. Unlike arbitration, in which an arbiter declares a settlement, mediation does not have to end in a settlement, and it is often less formal than either arbitration or a formal trial.

Medication Aides: individuals certified to work under the supervision of a licensed health-care professional. In nursing homes or assisted-living facilities, these individuals are also authorized to give out medication.

Medication Error: any instance of wrongful administration of a medication. Medication errors may include a mistake in dosage or method of drug administration, failure to prescribe or administer the correct drug for a particular disease or condition, use of expired drugs, failure to administer drugs at the correct time or lack of awareness of adverse effects from different drug combinations.

Medical Malpractice: an act or ongoing conduct of a medical professional that does not meet the standards of professional competence and results in provable damages to their patient. Medical malpractice may occur because of negligence, ignorance or intentional wrongdoing.

Minimum Data Set: a federally mandated process for clinical assessment of all residents in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. This process provides an assessment of each resident’s functional capabilities and is designed to identify health problems and develop an individual care plan.

Minimum Staffing: the federally required amount of staff required to work in a nursing home or assisted-living facility in order to maintain a safe staff-to-resident ratio. Staffing numbers beneath the minimum staffing limits pose a danger to the facility’s ability to care for its residents.

Miranda Rights: the statement that must be recited to a person placed under arrest to inform them of their legal rights. Officers are required to make it known prior to an arrest or interrogation that the individual is being placed under arrest, that they have the right to remain silent, that they have the right to legal counsel, and that anything the individual says can and will be held against them. If the individual confesses, the prosecution must prove that these rights were stated and the individual waived them before the confession becomes admissible in court.

Mistrial: when the judge declares the trial invalid, either on their own initiative or due to the insistence of a party that there has been a procedural error that has biased the trial. Other things that may invalidate a trial may include a jury that failed to reach a conclusive verdict or a trial that goes beyond its set end date.

Mobility Aids: devices that allow for movement of a person who would be otherwise unable to move or walk due to a disability, disease or injury. Aids can include canes, crutches, motorized scooters, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Motion: a formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment. Often, motions require written notice to the opposing party and a written list of legal reasons to grant the motion.

Motion in Limine: a motion made at the beginning of the trial requesting that certain evidence be withheld from the trial, often things such as statements taken before Miranda rights were read.


Negligence: conduct that falls below the standard of care established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risks or harm. Negligence is characterized as being accidental and causing harm through failure of duty.

Negotiation: a give-and-take discussion or conference in an attempt to reach an amicable agreement or settle a dispute. Negotiation may involve the submission and consideration of offers until an acceptable offer is made and accepted.

Never Event: an error in medical care that is clearly identifiable, preventable, and serious in its consequences for patients that indicates a real problem in the safety and credibility of a health-care facility. Never events include death due to a fall while in a medical facility.

No-Fault Proceedings: a civil case in which both parties resolve their dispute without a formal assignment of blame or fault. Neither party is considered guilty.

Non-Economic Damages: damages that are intangible in nature, often including pain and suffering, disfigurement, disability or trauma. Non-economic damages may be subjectively evaluated by the jury.

Non-Jury Trial: a trial conducted in court held without a jury present. In non-jury trials, cases are decided by a judge.

Nonprofit Nursing Homes: nursing homes or assisted-living facilities that do not pay out to shareholders and instead put all profits back into the facility

Nurse’s Aide: an employee with responsibilities that are less specialized than those of a nurse and usually include bathing, feeding, bed-making, transportation and other non-medical tasks. Nurse aides work under the direction of a registered nurse.

Nursing Home Abuse: any act, failure to act or incitement to act done willfully, knowingly or recklessly through words or physical action that causes mental or physical injury or death to a nursing home resident. Nursing home abuse may be verbal, sexual, mental, psychological or physical.

Nursing Home Administrator: the head of a nursing home responsible for all operations and employees at the establishment. Each administrator must be licensed in accordance with state licensing requirements.

Nursing Home Arbitration: an agreement signed upon admission waiving the right to a jury trial. Instead, all injuries and disputes with the nursing home are settled by a third party.

Nursing Home Compare: a federal website that compiles information on nursing homes and assisted-living facilities

Nursing Home Neglect: failure of a nursing home or assisted-living facility to meet the needs of a dependent resident


Objection: a legal protest made quickly and loudly before the witness may answer a question. Objections are either sustained, meaning that the question is rescinded, or overruled, meaning that the question may be asked and answered.

Opinion: an explanation of a court’s judgment by the presiding judge of that case or a representative of a group of judges. Opinions may be dissenting opinions that disagree with the majority or concurring opinions that agree with the majority.

Oral Argument: presentation of a case before the court by spoken argument. Oral arguments are commonly presented in an appellate court, where a time limit is set for the length of the argument.

Order: any direction or mandate from a judge or court that is not a judgment or a legal opinion that either directs something to be done or prohibits such an act. Orders include statements of case dates, orders of execution or actions such as arresting a defendant who has not appeared in court.

Ordinance: a law established by a city or town

Overrule: to reject an attorney’s objection to a question directed to a witness


Pain and Suffering: the physical and mental distress suffered due to an injury and the subsequent medical treatment. Pain and suffering accounts for any pain, aches, itching, or other things that may be classified as “distressing” by the jury and court.

Permanent Injunction: the final order of a court that a person or entity must cease and desist certain activities permanently or take certain actions until completed

Petitioner: the individual who files an action in a court and/or the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court

Physical Abuse: any bodily harm resulting from intentional, purposeful contact. Physical abuse may result in cuts, bruises, lacerations, and other injuries.

Plaintiff: the individual or individuals who initiate a lawsuit by filing a complaint with the clerk of court against the defendants demanding damages, performance, and/or court performance of rights.

Pleadings: any and all legal documentation filed in a lawsuit, petition, motion, and/or hearing. These include complaints, petitions, answers, demurrers, motions, declarations, and memoranda of points and authorities.

Power of Attorney: a written document signed by one individual giving another the power to conduct the signer’s business. This includes signing papers, checks, title documents, and contracts and handling banking statements and accounts. The person receiving power of attorney does not need to be an attorney themselves.

Precedent: a previous court opinion that which establishes the common rule in the future on the same legal question decided in the judgment in question.

Premises Liability: responsibility and fault imposed on the owner of land or property for an injury sustained there. Liability exists when the owner fails to maintain the property.

Pressure Ulcer: sores formed when unrelieved pressure builds on bony areas of the body. Common areas of formation are the buttocks, back, heels, sacrum, and head.

Pretrial Conference: a meeting of opposing attorneys and the judge before the trial. In the pretrial conference, there is an attempt to narrow the issues to be tried and settle the dispute without going to court.

Prosecutor: the attorney appointed to represent the government in a criminal proceeding. The prosecutor may be a district attorney, state attorney, U.S. attorney, attorney general, solicitor general or special prosecutor.

Proximate Cause: an event that relates enough to an injury that it may be legally deemed to be the cause of an injury. The key determinant of proximate cause is asking whether the injury would have occurred had the proposed cause not been present.

Psychological Abuse: any event in which the victim is subjected to harassment, humiliation, intimidation or threats by another individual, often someone in a position of power over the victim. Psychological abuse is also known as emotional abuse.

Punitive Damages: damages awarded to the plaintiff in a lawsuit to punish the defendant for malicious, evil, abusive or fraudulent acts. Punitive damages are more than simple compensation.


Qui Tam: a lawsuit brought by a private citizen against a person or company on behalf of the U.S. government. Also known as a whistleblower lawsuit, a qui tam suit may be filed against a nursing home that fraudulently uses government funds.


Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly: facilities that provide assistance for seniors who are no longer capable of living independently but do not have medical accreditation and are not required to provide medical care. Patients in need of medical care are relocated to another facility.

Respite Care: short-term care of a family member who needs total care or who needs to live in a residential facility outside of the home

Restraint: any physical or chemical means to stop a patient from being able to move about freely. Restraint, which may be considered abuse if improperly carried out, maybe for a resident’s protection.


Secondary Authority: writings that portray the opinion of a writer on the law. Secondary authorities include legal encyclopedias, treatises, legal texts, and law review articles.

Service of Process: delivery of orders or other legal documentation including summons, complaints, subpoenas, orders to show cause, writs, notices to quit premises, and others. These are usually delivered personally to the defendant or other individual to whom the document is addressed.

Settlement: the resolution of a lawsuit before the final court judgment is rendered. Most settlements are the result of out-of-court negotiations between attorneys.

Sexual Abuse: contact or interaction between two individuals in which sexual activity is being perpetrated physically, psychologically, verbally, or visually with the intent to gratify the assailant without the consent of the other individual. Sexual abuse may include touching of the breasts, genitals or anus without the person’s consent. Additionally, sexual coercion is classified as sexual abuse.

Skilled Nursing Facility: a facility that provides skilled nursing care under the supervision of licensed nurses and under the direction of a doctor.

Sovereign Immunity: a government doctrine stating that the state and federal government are immune to lawsuits unless they give their consent

Special Focus Facility: a program developed by the government to monitor poorly performing nursing homes that are historically noncompliant with federal law and potentially pose a threat to resident safety

Spend Down: a condition added to the Medicare and Medicaid programs that requires an individual to use up their personal assets to meet eligibility requirements

Standard of Proof: the degree of proof required for a case to prevail. In most civil cases, standards of proof are determined by the preponderance of evidence.

Standing: the right of an individual to file a lawsuit or petition under a given set of circumstances. Standing may be affected by the presence of controversy, jurisdiction, and residency of all parties involved.

Statute: federal or state laws enacted by the respective congress. Local statutes are called ordinances. Statutes are not regulations, rulings, opinions, proclamations, or executive orders.

Statute of Limitations: a law that sets the maximum period of time that is allowed to pass before a case, civil or criminal, can no longer be tried. After the statute of limitations has expired, the claim is regarded as forever dead and has no more legal relevance. Certain crimes, such as homicide, have no statute of limitations.

Statutory: created or defined by law

Stay: a court order that stops all judicial proceeding for a short time. It gives a losing defendant time to arrange for payment of the judgment or to move off of premises that they have been found to be occupying unlawfully.

Stipulation: an agreement between two opposing attorneys in a legal action.

Strict Liability: a situation or condition in which automatic responsibility is taken without having to prove negligence for damages due to possession and use of equipment, materials or items that are inherently dangerous, such as explosives, wild animals, venomous snakes or assault weapons. In these cases, ownership and damages are always sufficient to hold the owner liable.

Substantive Law: any law that establishes principles, creates and defines rights, and/or makes limitations under which society is governed. This is different from procedural law, which describes the rules and methods employed to obtain justice and how the courts are conducted.

Summary Judgment: an order that rules that no issues remain in terms of facts, so all causes of action in a complaint can be decided on based on the facts brought forth without a trial. Summary judgments are only declared when the motion is raised by one party that all issues are either settled or so one-sided that they do not need to be tried.

Summons: an order issued by the court that is drafted when a lawsuit is filed. It states all pertinent information about the case, including names, file number, attorney information, and instructions about deadlines to file a response.

Suspension: the temporary disbarment of an attorney. A suspension indicates a loss of an attorney’s right to practice law.

Sustained: a ruling that agrees with an attorney’s objection to a question directed at a witness


Testamentary Capacity: the mental ability of the testator at the time a will was written

Testator: a person who has written a will and testament

Testimony: a formal oral or written statement or declaration of fact obtained from a witness in a case under oath

Tort: an act, omission or civil wrong that causes injury, for which the court may provide damages. Courts may hold the person who committed the tort legally liable for a civil wrong that causes suffering, loss or harm.

Trial: a formal examination of evidence between parties coming to dispute or present evidence in court. A trial may occur before a judge, jury or other trier of fact to decide guilt or achieve a resolution.


United States Attorney: a federal district attorney appointed by the president to prosecute cases of offenses committed against the United States

United States Court of Appeals: a court system designed to give audience to appeals from lower court decisions that the plaintiff did not feel were justly made

United States District Court: a trial court for federal cases in a court district, which may consist of parts of a state or the entire state. District courts handle civil, criminal, and admiralty court cases.

United States Reports: a publication outlining Supreme Court decisions. The United States Reports are the official records of cases.


Verdict: a formal finding of fact made by a jury on trial matters. The verdict issues the judgment and concludes the decision.

Violation: failure to comply with a federal or state nursing home regulation. Examples of nursing home violations may include accident hazards, a lack of infection control or failure to develop care plans.


Waiver of Immunity: a relinquishment of the right provided by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution to refuse to testify against yourself. The testimony can then be used against them in future proceedings, which could lead to self-incrimination.

Will and Testament: a legal document outlining a person’s wishes as to how their property is to be distributed upon their death. The will and testament names an executor to manage the estate until its final distribution.

With or Without Prejudice: an indication of whether a dismissed case can be brought back to court. Cases dismissed with prejudice are permanent, whereas cases dismissed without prejudice may be tried again.

Witness: a person who saw an event, crime or accident take place. A witness will provide voluntary or compulsory testimonial evidence about their knowledge of a matter.

Witness Impeachment: the process questioning the credibility of a witness in a trial. Evidence is used to pursue witness impeachment.

Writ of Certiorari: an order directing a lower court to transmit records to an appellate court. Meant for rare use, a writ of certiorari helps the appellate court become more informed.

Wrongful Death: a civil claim against a person who can be held liable for a death. A wrongful death lawsuit may seek compensation for lost wages, lost companionship, and funeral expenses.

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