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Last Modified: May 31, 2023


Black’s Law Dictionary defines a defendant as “the person defending or denying; the party against whom relief or recovery is sought in an action or suit…In common usage, this term is applied to the party put upon his defense, or summoned to answer a charge or complaint, in any species of action, civil or criminal, at law or in equity.” Nolo’s Law Dictionary simplifies this definition as “the person against whom a lawsuit is filed.” Utah Code strictly defines a defendant as “a person who is claimed to be liable because of [an act or omission causing or contributing to injury or damages sustained by a person seeking recovery.]”

Example Sentence

Rachel sued Dr. Brown, the defendant after he failed to compare the effects of the drugs he administered to her husband, resulting in his early death.

Case Study

Because Gary crashed into Laura, she suffered many severe injuries. As a result, her medical bills continued to rise in cost. She eventually decided to sue Gary to have him help pay for the bills since he had caused the accident. As a result of her claim against him, Gary became the defendant in this case and needed to obtain legal help to defend him against Laura’s accusations.

Other Important Information

Utah law allows people to sue others for their actions, including negligent behavior, failure of a product or its warranty, and other misuses of a product. However, Utah law gives limited protection from lawsuits to some employers and government organizations. To know more about Utah’s Court rules on defendants, click here. A defendant can be found guilty in a criminal case only if the evidence shows he or she is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning that there can be no evidence possibly suggesting that the person is innocent. However, in civil cases, including many personal injury ones, the defendant can be found guilty only by a preponderance of the evidence, meaning that over half of the believable evidence is against the defendant. Typically, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant is guilty since he or she initially made the accusations. Further, if in a civil case the jury finds the plaintiff 50% or more responsible for the injury, then the defendant does not have to pay any compensation. Many different legal specifics apply to the defendant depending on the type of case and the issues brought forward in that case. Some examples of what rules and specific legal requirements apply to defendants include a Trial de Novo and a Tortfeasor (another name for a defendant). A plaintiff cannot seek excessive punitive damages from the defendant in accordance with Utah Supreme Court rulings (see CT v. Johnson).

Photo courtesy of Good Guys Injury Law.

Legal Glossary provided by Salt Lake Personal Injury Attorneys