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LEGAL TERMS

SEVERABILITY CLAUSE

A provision in a contract that preserves the rest of the contract if a portion of it is invalidated by a court. Without a severability clause, a decision by the... (more...)
A provision in a contract that preserves the rest of the contract if a portion of it is invalidated by a court. Without a severability clause, a decision by the court finding one part of the contract unenforceable would invalidate the entire document.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

The legally prescribed time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. Statutes of limitation differ depending on the type of legal claim, and often the state. For... (more...)
The legally prescribed time limit in which a lawsuit must be filed. Statutes of limitation differ depending on the type of legal claim, and often the state. For example, many states require that a personal injury lawsuit be filed within one year from the date of injury -- or in some instances, from the date when it should reasonably have been discovered -- but some allow two years. Similarly, claims based on a written contract must be filed in court within four years from the date the contract was broken in some states and five years in others. Statute of limitations rules apply to cases filed in all courts, including federal court.

OFFER

A proposal to enter into an agreement with another person. An offer must express the intent of the person making the offer to form a contract, must contain some... (more...)
A proposal to enter into an agreement with another person. An offer must express the intent of the person making the offer to form a contract, must contain some essential terms--including the price and subject matter of the contract--and must be communicated by the person making the offer. A legally valid acceptance of the offer will create a binding contract.

INVITEE

A business guest, or someone who enters property held open to members of the public, such as a visitor to a museum. Property owners must protect invitees from d... (more...)
A business guest, or someone who enters property held open to members of the public, such as a visitor to a museum. Property owners must protect invitees from dangers on the property. In an example of the perversion of legalese, social guests that you invite into your home are called 'licensees.'

EVIDENCE

The many types of information presented to a judge or jury designed to convince them of the truth or falsity of key facts. Evidence typically includes testimony... (more...)
The many types of information presented to a judge or jury designed to convince them of the truth or falsity of key facts. Evidence typically includes testimony of witnesses, documents, photographs, items of damaged property, government records, videos and laboratory reports. Rules that are as strict as they are quirky and technical govern what types of evidence can be properly admitted as part of a trial. For example, the hearsay rule purports to prevent secondhand testimony of the 'he said, she said' variety, but the existence of dozens of exceptions often means that hairsplitting lawyers can find a way to introduce such testimony into evidence. See also admissible evidence, inadmissible evidence.

ESTOPPEL

(1) A legal principle that prevents a person from asserting or denying something in court that contradicts what has already been established as the truth. equit... (more...)
(1) A legal principle that prevents a person from asserting or denying something in court that contradicts what has already been established as the truth. equitable estoppelA type of estoppel that bars a person from adopting a position in court that contradicts his or her past statements or actions when that contradictory stance would be unfair to another person who relied on the original position. For example, if a landlord agrees to allow a tenant to pay the rent ten days late for six months, it would be unfair to allow the landlord to bring a court action in the fourth month to evict the tenant for being a week late with the rent. The landlord would be estopped from asserting his right to evict the tenant for late payment of rent. Also known as estoppel in pais.estoppel by deedA type of estoppel that prevents a person from denying the truth of anything that he or she stated in a deed, especially regarding who has valid ownership of the property. For example, someone who grants a deed to real estate before he actually owns the property can't later go back and undo the sale for that reason if, say, the new owner strikes oil in the backyard.estoppel by silenceA type of estoppel that prevents a person from asserting something when she had both the duty and the opportunity to speak up earlier, and her silence put another person at a disadvantage. For example, Edwards' Roofing Company has the wrong address and begins ripping the roof from Betty's house by mistake. If Betty sees this but remains silent, she cannot wait until the new roof is installed and then refuse to pay, asserting that the work was done without her agreement.estoppel in paisSee equitable estoppel.promissory estoppelA type of estoppel that prevents a person who made a promise from reneging when someone else has reasonably relied on the promise and will suffer a loss if the promise is broken. For example, Forrest tells Antonio to go ahead and buy a boat without a motor, because he will sell Antonio an old boat motor at a very reasonable price. If Antonio relies on Forrest's promise and buys the motorless boat, Forrest cannot then deny his promise to sell John the motor at the agreed-upon price.(2) A legal doctrine that prevents the relitigation of facts or issues that were previously resolved in court. For example, Alvin loses control of his car and accidentally sideswipes several parked cars. When the first car owner sues Alvin for damages, the court determines that Alvin was legally drunk at the time of the accident. Alvin will not be able to deny this fact in subsequent lawsuits against him. This type of estoppel is most commonly called collateral estoppel.

RENT CONTROL

Laws that limit the amount of rent landlords may charge, and that state when and by how much the rent can be raised. Most rent control laws also require a landl... (more...)
Laws that limit the amount of rent landlords may charge, and that state when and by how much the rent can be raised. Most rent control laws also require a landlord to provide a good reason, such as repeatedly late rent, for evicting a tenant. Rent control exists in some cities and counties in California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C.

ILLUSORY PROMISE

A promise that pledges nothing, because it is vague or because the promisor can choose whether or not to honor it. Such promises are not legally binding. For ex... (more...)
A promise that pledges nothing, because it is vague or because the promisor can choose whether or not to honor it. Such promises are not legally binding. For example, if you get a new job and promise to work for three years, unless you resign sooner, you haven't made a valid contract and can resign or be fired at any time.

COMMERCIAL FRUSTRATION

An unforeseen and uncontrollable event that excuses a party to a contract from performing his or her duties under that contract. For example, a landlord can bre... (more...)
An unforeseen and uncontrollable event that excuses a party to a contract from performing his or her duties under that contract. For example, a landlord can break a lease if the property she agreed to rent accidentally burns down before the tenants move in.