RunSensible’s Legal Dictionary

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Legal Dictionary


Facies is a Latin word that refers to the actual appearance of a thing or fact upon inspection of its “face.” Most commonly, it is used with “prima” or first. Thus, a “prima facie case” initially appears on its face to state a valid cause of action and can go forward to trial. It means that there is enough substance to support a legal claim based on the initial evidence or appearance.
For example, in a lawsuit, if a party presents a prima facie case, they have provided enough evidence for their claim to proceed to trial. However, establishing a prima facie case doesn’t guarantee victory in court; it simply means that the case has met the minimum threshold to move forward, and the opposing party will have the opportunity to present counterarguments and evidence.
The concept of prima facie is commonly used in various legal fields, including criminal law, contract law, tort law, and employment law.
A prima facie case in criminal law may refer to presenting sufficient evidence to demonstrate that a crime has been committed and that the accused is likely responsible. This initial showing is necessary for the case to proceed to trial.
In contract law, a party might present a prima facie case to show that the essential elements of a valid contract exist. This could include demonstrating the offer, acceptance, consideration, and an intention to create legal relations.
In tort law, a prima facie case might involve presenting evidence that all the necessary elements of a particular tort (such as negligence or defamation) are present. This initial showing is required before the case can proceed to trial.
In the context of employment discrimination, a plaintiff may need to establish a prima facie case by showing that they belong to a protected class, were qualified for the position, suffered an adverse employment action, and that there is some basis to believe the action was discriminatory.
The prima facie case serves as a threshold requirement in all these instances. Once established, the burden of proof may shift to the opposing party to present evidence to the contrary. It is a foundational concept that helps ensure that legal actions are based on a minimum level of supporting evidence before they proceed through the legal system.

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