Glossary of Litigation Terms

American Rule

The American Rule is that attorney’s fees are not awardable to the prevailing party in a lawsuit unless authorized by a contract signed by the parties or a statute. The effect is that both parties must often pay their own attorney’s fees.


An Answer is the response by a defendant to a plaintiff’s complaint denying all or a part of the plaintiff’s allegations.


An Appeal is a written request to a higher court to modify or reverse the judgment of a lower court. Generally, an appellate court will accept as true all of the facts that the trial court found to be true, and decides only whether an error was made in applying the law.


Arbitration is a faster, confidential and more economical way to settle most disputes outside the courtroom. It is a process by which parties submit their dispute to an informed neutral third party (the arbitrator) who is empowered to render a binding decision. There are advantages and disadvantages to arbitration.

Attorney’s Lien

An Attorney Lien is the right of an attorney to a claim against the money or property of a client to compensate the attorney for legal services provided.

Bench Trial

A Bench Trial is a trial before a judge without a jury.


To Bifurcate is to divide the issues in a case so that one issue, or set of issues, can be tried before the others. For example, the issue of liability may be tried first and afterwards, the issue of damages.


A Brief is a written argument presented to a court for the purpose of providing “information” and persuading. It includes a summary of the facts, the relevant law, and an argument of how the law applies to the facts.

Cause of Action

A Cause of Action is a fact or facts sufficient to justify a legal action against someone.



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