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
- The defendant breached this duty.
- The breach of the defendant's duty proximately caused the
- A certain sum of money paid to the plaintiff will compensate for
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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