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Legal Dictionary - Glossary of Legal Terms

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Bad Faith. Intention to mislead or deceive; conscious refusal to fulfill some duty. Implies active ill will, as opposed to negligence. Bad faith is not bad judgment; it requires conscious wrongdoing.

Bailiff. Court officer responsible for keeping order in the court, custody of the jury, and custody of prisoners while in court.

Battery. The unlawful use of force resulting in the injury of another. Battery always includes assault. See assault.

Bench. The seat occupied by the judge. More broadly, the court itself.

Bench trial or Non-Jury Trial. Trial before a judge and without a jury. In a bench trial, the judge decides questions of law and questions of fact.

Beneficiary. Someone named to receive property or benefits in a will. In a trust, a person who is to receive benefits from the trust.

Benefit Notice. A required letter or form sent to you by the insurance company to inform you of benefits you may be entitled to receive.

Best Evidence. The most direct evidence possible, such as producing an original document to prove that the document exists and what it states. A copy of a document or testimony by a witness would be "secondary evidence." The best evidence rule prohibits the introduction of secondary evidence unless best evidence cannot be obtained, so long as the party seeking to introduce the secondary evidence is not at fault in making the best evidence incapable of being obtained.

Bifurcation. Splitting a trial into two parts. a liability phase and a penalty phase. In some cases, a new jury may be assigned to deliberate for the penalty phase.

Binding Authority. Law that controls the outcome of a case. For example, a decision on the same point of law by a higher court in the same state must be followed by a lower court in that state. See precedent.

Breach of Contract. Failure, without legal excuse, to perform all or some of the promises made in a contract.

Brief. Written document, usually prepared by an attorney, submitted to the court about a case, containing summaries of the facts of the case, relevant laws, and an argument showing how the laws support that party's position.

Burden of Proof. Also known as "Standard of Proof." Degree of proof required in a specific kind of case to prevail. In the majority of civil cases, it is proof by a preponderance of the evidence.

Bystander. In products liability law, a person who neither buys nor uses a product, but who nevertheless is injured by the product and may have a cause of action.

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