Sunday, January 25, 2015

What is “reasonable care,” anyway? A horse person’s guide to legal terms.

Lawyers have their own language: legalese. Just like horse people speak equestrian, the average person doesn’t speak legalese. Here are some of the most common legal terms and phrases, in plain English.

Reasonable care: the degree of caution and concern for the safety of himself/herself and others an ordinarily prudent and rational person would use in the circumstances. This is a subjective test of determining if a person is negligent, meaning he/she did not exercise reasonable care.

Prudent person: hypothetical person who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct that society requires of its members for the protection of their own and of others’ interests

Liable: responsible or obligated

Liability: legal responsibility for one’s acts or omissions

Waiver: the intentional and voluntary giving up of something, such as a right, either by an express statement or by conduct

Tort: a wrong or wrongful act, whether intentional or accidental, from which injury occurs to another

Contract: an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities where there is a promise to do something in return for a benefit

Tortious interference: when a person intentionally damages someone else’s contractual or other business relationships

Reasonable reliance: what a prudent person would believe and act upon if told something by another

Claim: (1) to make a demand for money, property, or enforcement of a legal right; (2) making a demand for money due, property, damages, or enforcement of a legal right

Counterclaim: a retaliatory claim by a defendant against a plaintiff intended to off-set or reduce the amount of the plaintiff’s original claim

Defense: (1) effort of an attorney representing a defendant; (2) a response to a complaint

Mediation: the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party mediator who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree to a fair result

Arbitration: a mini-trial held in an attempt to avoid a court trial and conducted by a person or panel of people who are not judges

Recovery: the amount of money and any other right or property received by a plaintiff in a lawsuit

Rescission: the cancellation of a contract by mutual agreement of the parties

Restitution: (1) returning to the proper owner property or the monetary value of loss; (2) in criminal cases, one of the penalties imposed is requiring the return of stolen goods or payment to the victim

Specific performance: the right of a party to a contract to demand that the defendant – who is claimed to have breached the contract – be ordered to perform the contract

Negligence: failure to exercise the care towards others which a reasonable or prudent person would do in the circumstances, or taking action which such a reasonable person would not

Custody: holding property under one’s control

Ownership: legal title coupled with exclusive legal right to possession

Independent contractor: a person or business which performs services for another person or entity. Distinguished from an employee, who works regularly for an employer. An independent contractor pays their own Social Security, income taxes without payroll deduction, has no retirement or health plan rights, and often is not entitled to worker’s compensation coverage. The independent contractor must be able to determine when and where work is performed, be able to work for others, provide own equipment and other factors which are indicative of true independence.

Employee: a person who is hired for a wage, salary, fee or payment to perform work for an employer

Indemnify: to guarantee against any loss which another might suffer

Venue: the proper or most convenient location for trial of a case

Choice of laws clause: a clause in a contract stating which state’s laws will apply to any dispute

Stablemen’s lien: a lien upon a horse or other animal provided by contract or law for the benefit of a person who has fed and/or cared for the animal

Lien: the legal right to take and hold or sell the property of another to satisfy an obligation or debt

Slander: oral defamation, in which someone tells one or more persons an untruth about another, which untruth will harm the reputation of the person defamed

Libel: to publish in print, writing, or broadcast an untruth about another which will do harm to that person of their reputation by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt

Lease: a written agreement in which the owner of property allows use of the property for a specified period of time for specific periodic payments, and other terms and conditions

Lessee: the person renting property under a written lease

Lessor: the person who owns the property being leased

Piercing the corporate veil: a situation in which courts put aside limited liability and hold a corporation’s shareholders or directors personally liable for the corporation’s actions or debts

Zoning: a system of developing a city or county plan in which various geographic areas are restricted to certain uses and development

Ordinance: a statute enacted by a city or town

Contingent: possible, but not certain

Variance: an exception to a zoning ordinance, authorized by an appropriate entity

Public hearing: a type of public meeting for receiving testimony from the public at large on a local issue or proposed government action

Setback restriction: building restrictions imposed on property owners prohibiting building a certain distance from a curb, property line, or structure

Planning commission or planning board: a local elected or appointed government board charged with recommending to the local town or city council the boundaries of the various original zoning district and appropriate regulations

Grandfather clause: a clause in a statute or zoning ordinance which permits the operator of a business or a land owner to be exempt from restrictions on use if the business or property continues to be used as it was when the law was adopted

Security interest: the property rights of a lender or creditor whose right to collect a debt is secured by property

Statute of Frauds: a law in every state which requires that certain documents be in writing: real property titles and transfers, leases for more than a year, wills, some types of contracts


Statute of Limitations: a law which sets the maximum period of time which one can wait before filing a lawsuit

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