A right to use another person's real estate for a specific purpose. The most common type of easement is the right to travel over another person's land, known as a right of way. In addition, property owners commonly grant easements for the placement of utility poles, utility trenches, water lines or sewer lines. The owner of property that is subject to an easement is said to be "burdened" with the easement, because he or she is not allowed to interfere with its use. For example, if the deed to John's property permits Sue to travel across John's main road to reach her own home, John cannot do anything to block the road. On the other hand, Sue cannot do anything that exceeds the scope of her easement, such as widening the roadway.
easement by prescription
A right to use property, acquired by a long tradition of open and obvious use. For example, if hikers have been using a trail through your backyard for ten years and you've never complained, they probably have an easement by prescription through your yard to the trail.
Listening to conversations or observing conduct which is meant to be private, typically by using devices that amplify sound or light, such as stethoscopes or binoculars. The term comes from the common law offense of listening to private conversations by crouching under the windows or eaves of a house. Nowadays, eavesdropping includes using electronic equipment to intercept telephone or other wire communications, or radio equipment to intercept broadcast communications. Generally, the term "eavesdropping" is used when the activity is not legally authorized by a search warrant or court order; and the term "surveillance" is used when the activity is permitted by law. Compare electronic surveillance.
See Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
effluxion of time
The normal expiration of a lease due to the passage of time, rather than due to a specific event that might cause the lease to end, such as destruction of the building.
eggshell skull
A hypothetical medical condition used to illustrate the idea that if you are at fault when you injure someone, you are responsible for all the consequences, whether you could have foreseen them or not. For example, if you cause an injury to a hemophiliac who begins to bleed severely, you are responsible for whatever happens to him, even though you had no way of knowing that the injury would be so severe.
An exit, or the act of exiting. The most famous use of this word was by P.T. Barnum, who put up a large sign in his circus tent saying "This Way to the Egress." Thinking an egress was some type of exotic bird, people eagerly went though the passage and found themselves outside the circus tent. Compare ingress.
elective share
See statutory share.
Electronic Funds Transfer Act
A federal law that gives you certain rights in the event that mistakes occur on your ATM or bank statements or if your ATM card is lost or stolen. Generally, you have a duty to report the mistake or lost card--and the sooner the better. If you notify the bank in a timely manner, it is under a duty to rectify the mistake or not charge you for withdrawals made by someone else with your card. If you delay in reporting your card lost or stolen, however, you can be liable for up to $500, or an unlimited amount if you don't report the problem for more than 60 days.
electronic signature
A paperless method of entering into an electronic contract. To "sign" a contract electronically, a person may be asked to click an "I Accept" button or use a "key" to encrypt (scramble) information that uniquely identifies the signer using a method called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI). Electronic signatures are as binding as those in ink.
electronic surveillance
A highly advanced form of eavesdropping. Electronic surveillance employs sophisticated electronic equipment to intercept private conversations or observe conduct that is meant to be private. It includes the use of radio equipment to intercept broadcast communications, the use of small radio transmitters or "bugs" to listen in on telephone or in-person conversations, the use of lasers to intercept conversations inside a room from the slight vibrations of the window glass, and the use of thermal imaging scopes for observing conduct inside a structure. Many of these sophisticated forms of surveillance require a search warrant because they violate a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. This area of law is in a constant state of flux as courts interpret the use of new technologies.
electronic ticket
An airline ticket in the form of a computer entry. An electronic ticket, or e-ticket, is supposed to function like an actual paper ticket by reserving you a space on a flight; all you need to do is give an identification number and show an ID at the airport. But you should also bring the written receipt sent by the airline in the event the airline's computer system has crashed or the airline has lost your reservation.
elements (of a case)
The component parts of a legal claim or cause of action. To win a lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove every element of a legal claim. For example, here are the elements of a breach of contract claim: There was a valid contract. The plaintiff performed as specified by the contract. The defendant failed to perform as specified by the contract. The plaintiff suffered an economic loss as a result of the defendant's breach of contract.
elements (of a crime)
The component parts of crimes. For example, "Robbery" is defined as the taking and carrying away of property of another by force or fear with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of the property. Each of those four parts is an element that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
The act of freeing someone from restraint or bondage. For example, on January 1, 1863, slaves in the confederate states were declared free by an executive order of President Lincoln, known as the "Emancipation Proclamation." After the Civil War, this emancipation was extended to the entire country and made law by the ratification of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution. Nowadays, emancipation refers to the point at which a child is free from parental control. It occurs when the child's parents no longer perform their parental duties and surrender their rights to the care, custody and earnings of their minor child. Emancipation may be the result of a voluntary agreement between the parents and child, or it may be implied from their acts and ongoing conduct. For example, a child who leaves her parents' home and becomes entirely self-supporting without their objection is considered emancipated, while a child who goes to stay with a friend or relative and gets a part-time job is not. Emancipation may also occur when a minor child marries or enters the military.