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The Plaintiff's Complaint

A plaintiff begins a lawsuit by formally alleging that the defendant violated a legal duty owed to the plaintiff. Historically, the common law rules for pleading a cause of action were very complex. These rules have been greatly simplified, but have a vestigial remnant in the form of the prima facie case that a plaintiff must plead in most states. (See Chapter 6.) A prima facie case is a formal statement of the facts that support the plaintiff's claim for compensation or other legal relief.

A medical malpractice lawsuit is a special instance of the general class of lawsuits that are based on the theory of negligence. To establish a prima facie case of negligence, the plaintiff must allege that:

The defendant had a duty to treat the plaintiff in a proper manner.

The defendant breached this duty.

The breach of the defendant's duty proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries.

A certain sum of money paid to the plaintiff will compensate for the injuries.

These allegations must be supported with a recitation of facts surrounding the plaintiff's injuries, but the plaintiff need not present expert opinion to support the prima facie case.

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