Prima Facie Definition

The term “prima facie” often refers to evidence, which must be sufficient enough to establish a fact in question or raise a presumption of a fact. This evidence can be rebutted. When using this term as an adjective, it is often used in the terms “prima facie evidence” or “prima facie contract.” Another use for the term is as an adverb, which means that it appears a certain way upon the first appearance of review but can be subject to further information or evidence. In this example, you might hear the term “prima facie valid.”

In a court of law, a prima facie case established a presumption that is legally required but rebuttable. This type of case is a defense or cause of action that has been established by one of the involved parties. Its purpose is to justify the verdict of the case in the presenting party's favor, as long as the other involved party doesn't resolve that evidence.

Many torts will have attached prima facie cases. To win a case, a plaintiff must prove the defendant has committed a tort by showing that the defendant met the requirements of a tort case that relates to prima facie.

For example, if a plaintiff is trying to prove that a defendant committed the tort of trespass, he or she would need to present prima facie evidence with three main components:

  • The plaintiff owned the land and did not allow the defendant to enter the land.
  • The defendant entered the land without permission.
  • The defendant intended to invade the plaintiff's land.

In the event that a plaintiff can't prove any of the three main components, the court will typically rule against that occurrence of the tort of trespassing.

History of the Term Prima Facie

The term prima facie provides an implication that evidence exists and is sufficient to provide a circumstance or fact unless it is disproved. It is a Latin term that translates to “at first appearance” or “at first face.”

Prima Facie Case of Discrimination

A plaintiff may be able to establish that discrimination occurred with a prima facie case under Title VII. To win the case, the plaintiff must first establish several key facts:

  • The plaintiff belongs to a racial minority.
  • The plaintiff applied for and was qualified for a job for which the defendant was seeking applicants.
  • The plaintiff was rejected for the open position, despite his or her qualifications.
  • The open position remained open after the plaintiff was rejected and the defendant continued to request applications from individuals who were similarly qualified to the plaintiff.

In the setting of employment, a discrimination prima facie case exists when the plaintiff has enough evidence that he or she was discriminated against by an employer, or the defendant. Unless the defendant can present sufficient evidence that proves discrimination did not occur, the plaintiff will likely win.

Discrimination can occur in any number of categories. An employer cannot legally discriminate against a potential or current employee based on:

  • National origin
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race.

When taking legal action with a prima facie case of discrimination, the plaintiff may need to provide different types of proof, depending on which category of discrimination is being presented.

For example, if someone is presenting a prima facie case of discrimination because of being discriminated against for his or her age, that person typically must prove he or she was over a specific age and a younger employee was hired to replace the person, despite his or her qualifications. In a case of prima facie racial discrimination, a plaintiff may have to prove that another employee that was a different race was selected for an open position and the plaintiff is of another race.

Consideration of Prima Facie Evidence

If a court accepts evidence on the terms of prima facie, it is the defendant's responsibility to disprove the evidence for it not to be used or taken into account in the case. When one of the involved parties presents enough evidence to disprove prima facie evidence, the jury or judge can still use that piece of evidence. However, it will be weighed against and considered with all the other evidence.

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