Lapsed Gift: A gift made in a will to a person who has died prior to the will-makers death.
Larceny: Obtaining property by fraud or deceit.
Law: The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom.
Law Clerks: Persons trained in the law who assist judges in researching legal opinions.
Lawsuit or Suit: Generally, a court action brought by one person, the plaintiff, against another, the defendant, seeking compensation for some injury or enforcement of a right.
Leading Case: Case regarded as having determined the law on a particular point, thus becoming a guide for later decisions.
Leading Question: A question that suggests the answer desired of the witness. A party generally may not ask one's own witness leading questions. Leading questions may be asked only of hostile witnesses and on cross-examination.
Legal Aid: Professional legal services available usually to persons or organizations unable to afford such services.
Legal Cause: Substantial factor in bringing about the harm. See also proximate cause.
Legal Fiction: Assumption of a fact that may or may not be true made by a judge to decide a legal question.
Leniency: Recommendation for a sentence less than the maximum allowed.
Letters of Administration: Legal document issued by a court that shows an administrator's legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person's name.
Letters Testamentary: Legal document issued by a court that shows an executor's legal right to take control of assets in the deceased person's name.
Liability: An obligation that one is bound in law to perform; usually involves the payment of money damages.
Liable: Legally responsible.
Libel: Published words or pictures that falsely and maliciously defame a person. Libel is published defamation; slander is spoken.
Liberal construction: Judicial interpretation of the law whereby the judge expands the literal meaning of the statute to meet cases that are clearly within the spirit or reason of the law. Compare with strict construction whereby the judge adheres to the literal meaning of the words.
Licensee: In civil law, a person who enters land with consent, but nothing more.
Lien: A legal claim against another person's property as security for a debt. A lien does not convey ownership of the property, but gives the lien holder a right to have his or her debt satisfied out of the proceeds of the property if the debt is not otherwise paid.
Limine: A motion requesting that the court not allow certain evidence that might prejudice the jury.
Limited tort option: In Pennsylvania, purchasers of motor vehicle insurance can choose "limited tort," which restricts their right to seek money damages for an accident caused by another driver. Under limited tort, the insured can only seek money damages for economic loss, including medical bills. The insured is prohibited from seeking damages for pain and suffering, except under certain limited circumstances. Compare with full tort option.
Limited Jurisdiction: Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. For example, traffic violations generally are heard by limited jurisdiction courts.
Litigant: A party to a lawsuit. Litigation refers to a case, controversy, or lawsuit.
Living Trust: A trust set up and in effect during the lifetime of the grantor. Also called inter vivos trust.
Loss of consortium: Damages awarded to a family member (usually a spouse) for loss of companionship.