The aggressive and respected San Diego business litigation attorneys at Gehres Law Group, P.C. provide representation if you are being sued or if you must initiate litigation as a plaintiff to protect your interests. Business disputes are decided within the civil court system, mediation or arbitration, and both plaintiffs and defendants must understand the requirements for prevailing in a civil case.
There are many court rules of civil procedure, including rules on the nature of evidence which may be presented versus evidence that may or must be excluded. Some of the most important rules of civil procedure relate to the burden of proof.
What Does Burden of Proof Mean in Civil Litigation?
California defines “burden of proof,” in section 115 of the state’s Evidence Code. According to section 115: “’Burden of proof” means the obligation of a party to establish by evidence a requisite degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of the trier of fact or the court.”
There are different standards for meeting a burden of proof including:
- Beyond a reasonable doubt: This is the standard in criminal cases.
- By a preponderance of the evidence: This is the default standard in civil matters, according to section 115, unless specified otherwise in a particular statute.
- By clear and convincing proof: Clear and convincing evidence is a higher burden of proof, according to California Civl Jury Instructions 201. When a party must prove his case by clear and convincing proof, it means he “must persuade you that it is highly probable that the fact is true.”
The preponderance of the evidence standard used in most civil cases requires that the judge, jury or arbitrator deciding on the veracity of the facts must believe the “existence of a fact is more probable than its non-existence,” as explained by In re Angelina P, a 1981 case decided by the Supreme Court of California.
Plaintiffs typically have the burden of proving the elements of their claim, while defendants can avoid liability by introducing sufficient doubt about the existence of the plaintiff’s alleged facts. However, the burden may shift to a defendant who has raised affirmative defenses, such as statute of limitations, unclean hands, and many others.
In other types of cases, there may be a burden-shifting analysis that exists. For example, where a disparate impact discrimination claim claim has been alleged, the plaintiff can meet his burden of proof by demonstrating he was qualified for a position sought, he is a member of a protected class, and was treated less favorably than non-members of the protected class. This is called establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. When this burden has been met by the plaintiff, the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to articulate a non-discriminatory reason for the less favorable treatment. If the defendant meets his burden of proof, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff, who can prevail only by showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant’s stated reasons were a pretext for a discrimination.
Getting Help from A San Diego Business Litigation Attorney
The San Diego business litigation attorney at Gehres Law Group, P.C. provide expert assistance to plaintiffs and defendants in understanding who has the burden of proof and what elements of their case must be proven. If your case must go to trial or arbitration, our legal team will work closely with you to help you meet your burden of proof so you can maximize the chances of prevailing in your civil case. Give us a call at 858-964-2314 or contact us online to find out more.