Prima Facie – Definition

Cite this article as:"Prima Facie – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 14, 2019, last accessed October 20, 2020,

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Prima Facie Definition

Prima facie is a term used to describe the nature of something at first observation. It is a legal claim which proves that there is sufficient evidence for the prosecution to take place.” In other words, prima facie refers to particular evidence, whereby if held to be sufficient, it can be used to prove a case. Prima facie is commonly used in legal hearings such as criminal and civil lawsuits. Prima facie is a Latin term meaning, “the first sight.”

A Little More on What is Prima Facie

In civil and criminal law, the term prima facie signifies initial examination with corroborating evidence which supports a given case. It denotes evidence which if not refuted can sufficiently be used to prove a case. In common law jurisdictions, the term prima facie is applied in court proceedings to commence a case and create a ruling.

Example of a Prima Facie

Prima facie is generally used in legal proceedings in both civil and criminal cases. Below are two examples of prima facie and how they are used to prove a case in court:

Example one

Let’s say that a business files a claim that one of its vendors breached a contract by failing to deliver an order. In the process, the business lost a number of customers. The filed complaint should provide detailed information on the reasons for filing the lawsuit.

Also, It should explain the injury caused as well as the defendant’s contribution to the injury. In this case, before the court begins the trial, it has to first determine if the case has met the threshold to initiate a court trial. When a court does its first examination of the case, the judge may decide that there is adequate evidence to carry on with the prosecution. If this is the case, it becomes a prima facie.

Example two

Let’s assume that there is a prosecution on murder. And among the collected evidence, there is a videotape that shows the plaintiff screaming due to death threats from the respondent. In a court of law, such evidence is likely to be considered prima facie evidence (intention to kill). However, the prosecution must prove this element in the court for the jury to find a basis for convicting the respondent for murder charges.

Also, in criminal law, a copy of the respondent’s criminal record can be viewed as prima facie by the jury. This may include his prior convictions which may be used against him in court.

Note that even though a prima facie may be accepted for trial, there is no guarantee of a plaintiff winning the lawsuit. The reason is that if during the court proceedings the judge later tinds that the evidence is not enough to warrant prosecution, the court will automatically dismiss the case.

How Prima Facie is Dealt with in Court

When it comes to civil claims, a plaintiff is expected to provide a prima facie that has affirmative evidence at the initial stage of court proceedings. It is crucial to provide enough proof because this is the only way a plaintiff can prevent the jury from directly dismissing the case. Better still prevent the judge from passing an unfair verdict.

Where the prima facie of the plaintiff has no sufficient proof, the respondent may request for the dismissal of the claims directed against him. The respondent can do this without having to submit any evidence to refute claims made against him or her by the plaintiff.

Note that it is the plaintiff’s duty to persuade the jury during a court hearing and not the respondent. So, if the plaintiff prima facie is not convincing enough to the jury, the ruling will automatically be made in the respondent’s favor.

References for “Prima Facie › Insights › Laws & Regulations

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