If you are being sued in civil court, the burden of proof will lie with the plaintiff. This idea is similar to the well-known idea that a criminal is considered innocent until proven guilty and the prosecution is required to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Unlike criminal cases, however, the standard of proof is lower in civil matters. In those cases, plaintiffs are required to prove their case by what is referred to as a “preponderance of the evidence”. This means they must prove that their claims are more likely true than not and it is comprised of two distinct, but related concepts.
First, the burden of production requires litigants to produce evidence that is favorable enough to support a finding on the issue. The plaintiff has an obligation to support his or her proposition of fact. After filing suit, this is one way the plaintiff can avoid the case dismissed. If this standard is not met, a defendant has the right to request a summary judgment in which a decision will be made without holding a trial. Likewise, the defending party’s attorney can file a motion for judgment as a matter of law and have the case decided before the case is submitted to the jury. However, the defendant will also be required to meet this burden of proof when disputing claims made by the defendant.
In a civil case, the plaintiff is required to establish his right to relief by convincing the judge or jury that their facts are true and their allegations are supported. The body of evidence must be of greater weight or be more convincing than the evidence offered in opposition. The burden of persuasion is comprised of two elements that establish the level of which evidence must be proven. In a civil case, the facts that a party must plead or prove in order to prevail is less than that required in criminal matters.
Satisfying the burden of production is often referred to as establishing a prima facie case in which there is sufficient evidence to establish a fact unless rebutted by the other party or previously-known fact. The evidence is viewed as being valid on first appearance, but still in need of further evidence or information before a verdict can be handed down. The burden of proof lays with the plaintiff when moving through pretrial motions and when defendants offer evidence in dispute of the plaintiff’s claims. Also unlike criminal cases, a plaintiff is able to win his or her case if as few as 9 of 12 jurors agree on the verdict.