A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
annual meeting
A term commonly used to refer to annual meetings of shareholders or directors of a corporation. Shareholders normally meet to elect directors or to consider major structural changes to the corporation, such as amending the articles of incorporation or merging or dissolving the corporation. Directors meet to consider or ratify important business decisions, such as borrowing money, buying real property or hiring key employees.
annuity
A purchased policy that pays a fixed amount of benefits every year -- although most annuities actually pay monthly -- for the life of the person who is entitled to those benefits. In a simple life annuity, when the person receiving the annuity dies, the benefits stop; there is no final lump sum payment and no provision to pay benefits to a spouse or other survivor. A continuous annuity pays monthly installments for the life of the retired worker, and also provides a smaller continuing annuity for the worker's spouse or other survivor after the worker's death. A joint and survivor annuity pays monthly benefits as long as the retired worker is alive, and then continues to pay the worker's spouse for life.
annulment
A court procedure that dissolves a marriage and treats it as if it never happened. Annulments are rare since the advent of no-fault divorce but may be obtained in most states for one of the following reasons: misrepresentation, concealment (for example, of an addiction or criminal record), misunderstanding and refusal to consummate the marriage.
answer
A defendant's written response to a plaintiff's initial court filing (called a complaint or petition). An answer normally denies some or all facts asserted by the complaint, and sometimes seeks to turn the tables on the plaintiff by making allegations or charges against the plaintiff (called counterclaims). Normally a defendant has 30 days in which to file an answer after being served with the plaintiff's complaint. In some courts, an answer is simply called a "response."
anticipation
In patent law, a situation in which an invention is "anticipated" by being too similar to an earlier invention to be considered novel. Because novelty is a requirement for a patent, anticipated inventions are not patentable. Anticipation can occur when a prior invention or printed publication matches all of the primary characteristics of the invention, or it can happen when the invention is displayed or offered for sale more than a year prior to filing a patent application. For example, a bird owner invents a device to keep her bird from picking at its tail feathers. She applies for a patent, but her application is rejected on the ground that the same device was in use 3500 years ago in Egypt. In patent-speak, the inventor's creation has been anticipated by previous developments (the prior art.)
appeal
A written request to a higher court to modify or reverse the judgment of a trial court or intermediate level appellate court. Normally, an appellate court accepts as true all the facts that the trial judge or jury found to be true, and decides only whether the judge made mistakes in understanding and applying the law. If the appellate court decides that a mistake was made that changed the outcome, it will direct the lower court to conduct a new trial, but often the mistakes are deemed "harmless" and the judgment is left alone. Some mistakes are corrected by the appellate court -- such as a miscalculation of money damages -- without sending the case back to the trial court. An appeal begins when the loser at trial -- or in an intermediate level appellate court -- files a notice of appeal, which must be done within strict time limits (often 30 days from the date of judgment). The loser (called the appellant) and the winner (called the appellee) submit written arguments (called briefs) and often make oral arguments explaining why the lower court's decision should be upheld or overturned.
appellant
A party to a lawsuit who appeals a losing decision to a higher court in an effort to have it modified or reversed.
appellate court
A higher court that reviews the decision of a lower court when a losing party files for an appeal.
appellee
A party to a lawsuit who wins in the trial court -- or sometimes on a first appeal -- only to have the other party (called the appellant) file for an appeal. An appellee files a written brief and often makes an oral argument before the appellate court, asking that the lower court's judgment be upheld. In some courts, an appellee is called a respondent.
appraisal
A determination of the value of something, such as a house, jewelry or stock. A professional appraiser -- a qualified, disinterested expert -- makes an estimate by examining the property, and looking at the initial purchase price and comparing it with recent sales of similar property. Courts commonly order appraisals in probate, condemnation, bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings in order to determine the fair market value of property. Banks and real estate companies use appraisals to ascertain the worth of real estate for lending purposes. And insurance companies require appraisals to determine the amount of damage done to covered property before settling insurance claims.
appraiser
A person who is hired to determine the current value of real estate or other property.
appreciation
An increase in value. Appreciated property is property that has gone up in value since it was acquired.
arbitration
A non-court procedure for resolving disputes using one or more neutral third parties -- called the arbitrator or arbitration panel. Arbitration uses rules of evidence and procedure that are less formal than those followed in trial courts, which usually leads to a faster, less-expensive resolution. There are many types of arbitration in common use: Binding arbitration is similar to a court proceeding in that the arbitrator has the power to impose a decision, although this is sometimes limited by agreement -- for example, in "hi-lo arbitration" the parties may agree in advance to a maximum and minimum award. In non-binding arbitration, the arbitrator can recommend but not impose a decision. Many contracts -- including those imposed on customers by many financial and healthcare organizations -- require mandatory arbitration in the event of a dispute. This may be reasonable when the arbitrator really is neutral, but is justifiably criticized when the large company that writes the contract is able to influence the choice of the arbitrator.
arbitrator
See arbitration.
argument
A persuasive presentation of the law and facts of a case or particular issue within a case to the judge or jury.