Prima facie

Definition

Latin for "at first sight." 

Overview 

Prima facie may be used as an adjective meaning "sufficient to establish a fact or raise a presumption unless disproved or rebutted." An example of this would be to use the term "prima facie evidence."

It may also be used as an adverb meaning "on first appearance but subject to further evidence or information." An example of this would be to use the term  "prima facie valid."

A prima facie case is the establishment of a legally required rebuttable presumption.  A prima facie case is a cause of action or defense that is sufficiently established by a party's evidence to justify a verdict in his or her favor, provided such evidence is not rebutted by the other party.

Application

Various torts will typically have prima facie cases attached to them. A plaintiff would typically need to prove that a defendant has met all the components of a prima facie tort case in order to prove that the defendant committed that tort. For example, the tort of trespass has a prima facie case with 3 components:

  1. The defendant had the intent to invade the land
  2. The defendant invaded the land
  3. The plaintiff possessed the land and did not consent to the defendant's invasion

If the plaintiff is not able to prove one of the components, then a court will likely find that the tort did not occur.

Further Reading

For more on prima facie, see Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554 (2007); Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002); Hernandez v. New York, 500 US 352 (1991). Also see this Louisiana Law Review Article.