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Respond to a Civil Summons & Complaint
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GLOSSARY OF LEGAL TERMS FREQUENLTY ENCOUNTERED BY LITIGANTS IN COURT CASES



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Affidavit of service: An affidavit (printed declaration) certifying that a legal document has been served (delivered in accordance with law).

Affirmative Defense: Assertions by a defendant (beyond mere denials of what is alleged in the complaint) that constitute defenses to the relief sought in the complaint. Some examples of affirmative defenses include: (a) plaintiff's claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (b) assumption of the risk; (c) accord and satisfaction.

Answer: A written statement by which the defendant in a lawsuit sets forth the grounds of his or her defense to the relief sought in the plaintiff's complaint. A pleading by which a defendant opposes the demand set forth in the plaintiff's complaint, either denying the Plaintiff's factual allegations or admitting them and alleging new matters that defendant alleges should cause the court to dismiss the complaint.
Burden of proof: The obligation of a party to establish, by admissible evidence, the facts in dispute. In general, it is the plaintiff's burden to establish the facts alleged in his or her complaint.
Claim: Frequently, the term "claim" is also used to describe a "cause of action" in a complaint. Generally, in the context of litigation, a claim refers to the plaintiff's demand for relief (such as money or return of property).

Complaint: The original or initial pleading by which a court action is initiated. The complaint typically sets forth the claims for relief, and provides, in concise, numbered paragraphs, the plaintiff's factual allegations upon which such claims are based.
Defendant: The party in a lawsuit against whom relief or recovery is sought.
Fault: (divorce) All states in the United States have no-fault grounds for divorce. In addition, some states continue to provide for fault as a basis for divorce. However, in most jurisdictions, the issue of "Fault" does not affect how property is divided between spouses. States that provide for "fault" divorce (in addition to no-fault bases for divorce) include: Alabama; Alaska; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Mississippi; Missouri; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; and West Virginia.
Holdover Tenant: (landlord/tenant) This term is frequently encountered in landlord-tenant cases. It refers to a tenant who remains in possession of the premises after the expiration, or after a tenancy has been terminated.
Mandatory Disclosures. (divorce) Many states require that parties in divorce actions exchange financial information, and that such disclosure be filed with the court at the beginning of the divorce action. In most jurisdictions, mandatory disclosures can be waived by the parties.
Petitioner: In certain jurisdictions and/or types of legal proceedings, a "plaintiff" may be characterized as a "Petitioner". In such matters, the "defendant" is frequently referred to as the "respondent".

Plaintiff: The individual who sues in a civil action.
Release: Giving up or relinquishing a right.
Statute of Limitations: Time period within which an action may be brought for a particular claim. Such time periods differ based on the type of claim, and vary considerably amongst different states.
Tenant at will: One who has possession of premises by permission of the owner/landlord, but without a fixed term.
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