Burden of Proof in a Civil Trial

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Burden of Proof in a Civil Trial," in The Business Professor, updated January 6, 2015, last accessed April 2, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/burden-of-proof-in-a-civil-trial/.
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Burden of Proof in a Civil Trial
This video explains the burden of proof that a plaintiff must achieve to find a defendant liable in a civil trial.

Next Article: How a Civil Trial is Decided

Return to: CIVIL LITIGATION

What is the “Burden of Proof” in a civil trial?

The burden of proof in a trial refers to the responsibility of a party to produce evidence in support of her allegations. The burden of persuasion refers to the strength of that evidence. The burden of proof in a civil trial is a finding of liability by either a “preponderance of the greater weight of evidence” or by “clear and convincing evidence”.

  • A preponderance of the greater weight of evidence – Concerns how convincing is the available evidence. The jury should focus on the credibility and accuracy.
  • Clear and Convincing Evidence – Is a slightly higher standard of proof than a preponderance of the evidence. It focuses on the greater likelihood or belief that the evidence is truthful and the fact finder’s belief in its truth.

In either case, the plaintiff must present evidence sufficient to meet this standard in order to demonstrate liability.

Discussion: Compare the burden of proof in a civil trial to the burden of proof in a criminal trial? Why do you think the standard of proof is far lower in a civil trial than in a criminal trial?

Discussion Input

  • The burden of proof in a civil trial is based on a balance of probability in that if it is more likely than not that all of the required elements of the offense is proved. In a criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond reasonable doubt. This means that a reasonable person, given the facts, would find that all of the elements of the charged offense have been proven. The distinction in the burden of proof is that in criminal case it involves the life of another human being on a balance. Therefore, the standard of proof is much higher.

Practice Question: Donte is charged with criminal assault. Also, the alleged victim is suing Donte in civil court to recover damages. Donte is acquitted in criminal court. Is it possible that Donte will still be held liable in civil court?

Proposed Answer

  • In criminal case one has to proof beyond reasonable doubt, in this instance, there were chances that it was not proved beyond reasonable doubt that Donte had committed criminal assault. If there is any doubt the court will be hesitant in giving a conviction. On the other hand, Dante will can be held liable in civil court, this is because the court burden of proof is based on a balance of probability. If the plaintiff will be able to prove the case on a balance of probability and Donte fails to do so then he can be found liable in a civil court.

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