1. What Is Scintilla of Evidence?
2. Example of a Case Law Regarding Scintilla of Evidence
3. Impact of the Scintilla of Evidence Principle
4. What Is Substantial Evidence?

Scintilla of evidence is a principle that is used in courts to measure the amount of evidence that must be present in order to support a conclusion. According to this principle, the slightest trace of evidence supporting a legal claim will cause the case to be submitted to the jury. Scintilla of evidence is the antithesis of the substantial evidence rule, which requires a party to provide adequate relevant evidence to support a claim. However, evidence presented in a court must meet certain requirements in order to be regarded as substantial.

The scintilla of evidence rule is seldom practiced in federal and state courts. It is usually seen as insufficient evidence, which makes it an insignificant factor in the outcome of most court cases. Substantial evidence, on the other hand, can have an impact on verdicts. Nonetheless, it can be useful to understand the scintilla of evidence principle, especially if you are involved in a legal case where there is a lack of evidence proving a certain claim.

What Is Scintilla of Evidence?

The “scintilla of evidence” doctrine refers to a common law principle stating that a motion for directed verdict or summary judgment cannot be granted if there exists even the minutest relevant evidence. In such a situation, the case will be decided by the jury. Federal courts generally do not follow the scintilla of evidence principle, and almost every state has abandoned the rule. In most cases, verdicts must be based on substantial, reasonably believable evidence.

Example of a Case Law Regarding Scintilla of Evidence

According to the scintilla of evidence rule, a party's testimony must contain some evidence that clarifies the issues of fact and enables the jury to arrive at an intelligent conclusion. However, the evidence does not permit admission of theoretical, speculative, and hypothetical views. Scintilla of evidence is defined as a spark, glimmer, gleam, or the smallest trace of evidence that supports a plaintiff's claim.

Impact of the Scintilla of Evidence Principle

The scintilla of evidence principle states that a case must undergo a jury trial if there is a mere glimmer, gleam, spark, smallest particle, or slightest trace of evidence that supports an inference. “Scintilla” is a widely used legal term that originates from a Latin word that means “a spark.” This term is used to describe the amount of evidence that exists to support a certain fact.

If a court decides that there is not even a scintilla of evidence proving a certain fact that is being disputed, it is actually describing an amount of evidence that is negligibly small. According to Texas law, a scintilla of evidence is considered no evidence at all in the courts. As such, if the evidence presented during a court case amounts to no more than a scintilla, it can be said that the party has provided insufficient evidence and therefore cannot prevail on his or her legal claim.

What Is Substantial Evidence?

In contrast to scintilla of evidence, substantial evidence has greater probative value. In order to be regarded as substantial, the evidence must be more than a scintilla. In other words, it must do more than just create a suspicion that the fact that is being established exists. Substantial evidence does not amount to a preponderance. Instead, it must be relevant to the extent that a reasonable person will consider it adequate for supporting a conclusion.

It is important to note that not every kind of evidence is considered substantial evidence. In order to be sufficiently substantial to have an impact on the verdict, the evidence must meet the following requirements:

  • Reasonable in nature
  • Of solid value
  • Credible
  • Substantial enough to prove the essentials that are legally required in a particular case

Improbable conclusions that are drawn in favor of a party will not be sustained if the testimony differs from physical facts and contradiction or inconsistency is self-evident and material. Although there may be inferences in substantial evidence, the inferences must be the result of logic and reason and rest on the evidence. If the inferences are a product of speculation or conjecture, they cannot support a conclusion.

If you need help understanding the scintilla of evidence rule, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.