Glossary of Legal Terms – P





This glossary should not be relied upon as legal advice. It is provided for general informational purposes only. To properly advise on any given situation requires a knowledge of the facts surrounding that situation. Laws and the statutory definitions of terms will vary from state to state. Specific questions should be directed to an attorney licensed in your state.

Pain And Suffering: An element of non-economic damages to which the plaintiff may be entitled if injured as the result of the wrongdoing of another.

Panel:   A section or division of a wall, ceiling or a flat piece of building material that forms the part of the surface of a wall, door or cabinet.

Paneling:   Strips of wood or wood material applied as a finish to a wall.

Paralegal: An individual trained to perform a variety of legal tasks but who is not authorized to practice law.

Parcel:   An officially described piece of land.

Pardon: A form of executive clemency preventing criminal prosecution or removing or extinguishing a criminal conviction.

Parens Patriae: The doctrine under which the court protects the interests of a juvenile.

Parking strip:   The strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street in front of a house.

Parole: The supervised conditional release of a prisoner before the expiration of his or her sentence. If the parolee observes the conditions, he or she need not serve the rest of his or her term.

Partial Disability: In a workers’ compensation case, this refers to any disability that is less than total. Workers’ compensation benefits are generally measured by earning power in this situation.

Partition:   An interior wall.

Partition:   Any kind of structure dividing one room or space from another.

Partnership:   There are several partnership options for unmarried individuals to buy a piece of property, such as live-in partnerships (in which both buyers share the residence) or a shared-equity partnership (in which one buyer lives in the home and the other is an investor in the property).

Party: A person, business, or government agency actively involved in the prosecution or defense of a legal proceeding.

Party-in-interest: May includes the debtor, the trustee, a creditors’ committee, an equity security holders’ committee, a creditor, an equity security holder, or any indenture trustee.

Passive loss:   A tax term that refers to any loss from a passive activity, such as the ownership but not the operation of a piece of rental real estate.

Passive solar system:   A system that supplies solar heat without the use of electric fans or pumps.

Patent defect:   A visible deficiency in a piece of property, such as a cracked basement slab or a sagging porch.

Patent: A government grant giving an inventor the exclusive right to make or sell his or her invention for a term of years.

Patio:   An interior courtyard or a paved backyard area.

Payment cap:   A legal limit on the amount a monthly payment can increase on an adjustable-rate mortgage.

Pendente lite: Latin for “while litigation is going on.”

Per Curiam: By the court.

Percocet: A prescription pain reliever containing oxycodone and acetaminophen. Classified in the same category as Oxycontin, Percocet contains no more than 5mg of oxycodone.

Percolation test:   A test used to determine the ability of soil to accommodate a septic system.

Per-diem interest:   Interest charged or accrued daily.

Peremptory Challenge: A challenge that may be used to reject a certain number of prospective jurors without giving a reason.

Perennial:   Any plant that produces leaves, flowers and seeds from year to year, such as irises or peonies.

Pergola:   An arbor with an open roof of rafters supported by posts or columns.

Peritoneal Mesothelioma: A type of cancer found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the peritoneum, a sac lining the abdomen, and has no known cure.

Perjury: The willful making of a false statement under oath which constitutes a criminal offense.

Permanent Injunction: A court order requiring that some action be taken, or that some party refrain from taking action. It differs from forms of temporary relief, such as a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.
Person in Need of Supervision: Juvenile found to have committed a status offense rather than a crime that would provide a basis for a finding of delinquency. Typical status offenses are habitual truancy. Violating a curfew, or running away from home. These are not crimes, but they might be enough to place a child under supervision. In different states, status offenders might be called children in need of supervision or minors in need of supervision.

Person: Generally, a human being. Legally, a “person” may statutorily include a corporation, partnership, trustee, legal representative, etc.

Personal Jurisdiction: The power of a court over a person. Compare with subject matter jurisdiction.

Personal Property: Tangible physical property (such as cars, clothing, furniture, and jewelry) and intangible personal property. This does not include real property such as land or rights in land.

Personal property:   Any moveable property in a house such as furniture or appliances.

Personal Recognizance: In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon his or her promise to return to court. See also own recognizance.
Personal Representative: One who stands in the place of another.

Pest-control inspection:   A common pest-control inspection is a termite inspection, which is required in some states, such asCalifornia.

PET Scan: Positron Emission Tomography is a new test that studies brain function – not brain structure. It is the only test that can measure functions as opposed to tissue damage, changes in blood flow or other structural anomalies. The patient is injected with minuscule positrons that make visual to a computer the brain’s function when it is using or failing to properly use glucose or sugar. The patient is injected with positrons and then, after the positrons take effect, given glucose by intravenous drip. As the sugar reaches the brain, the scan measures normal from abnormal patterns of use. When correlated with neuropsychological test results, PET becomes an effective demonstrative diagnostic tool that objectively defines abnormal brain function.
Petition to Terminate, Modify or Suspend Benefits: In a workers’ compensation case, this is the petition filed by the employer/insurance carrier in an attempt to modify, suspend or terminate an injured employee’s compensation.

Petition: A formal request that the court take some action; a complaint.

Petitioner: The person filing an action in a court of original jurisdiction. Also, the person who appeals the judgment of a lower court. The opposing party is called the respondent.

Physical Dependence: A physiological need for a substance, the absence of which leads to withdrawal. Physical dependence is distinguishable from addiction in that addiction also involves mental fixation.

Physical therapy: Therapy designed to improve mobility and keep muscles stretched.

Pier:   A rectangular masonry support column.

PITI (Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance) :   When a buyer applies for a loan, the lender will calculate the principal, interest, taxes and insurance. The figure is designed to represent the borrower’s actual monthly mortgage-related expenses.

Plaintiff: The party who initiates a legal action; in a personal injury lawsuit, the person who alleges that he or she has suffered monetary damages due the negligence of another party.

Plan: A detailed description of how the debtor proposes to pay creditors’ claims over a fixed period of time.

Planned communities:   The concept began in the 19th century and describes any town or neighborhood built with certain guidelines and goals.

Planned-unit development:   Residents own the home and the land, and share the use and financial responsibility for common areas.

Plaster:   A labor-intensive and more costly wall finish.

Plea Bargaining or Plea Negotiating: The process through which an accused person and a prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of a case. Usually it is a legal transaction in which a defendant pleads guilty in exchange for some form of leniency. It often involves a guilty plea to lesser charges or a guilty plea to some of the charges if other charges are dropped. Such bargains are not binding on the court.

Plea: In a criminal proceeding, it is the defendant’s declaration in open court that he or she is guilty or not guilty. The defendant’s answer to the charges made in the indictment or information.

Plead: In civil law, a defendant’s formal answer to a plaintiff’s complaint.

Pleadings: Written documents stating the allegations and claims of the opposing parties in a legal dispute.

Pleural mesothelioma: A type of cancer found in people who have been exposed to asbestos. Occurs in the pleura, a sac lining the lungs, and has no known cure.

Pocket door:   A sliding door that retreats into the wall when opened.

Point:   Fees charged by lenders at the time a loan is originated. A point is equal to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Polling the Jury: The act, after a jury verdict has been announced, of asking jurors individually whether they agree with the verdict.

Porch:   The structure can be a simple covered entrance to a home or a fully enclosed room on the outside of a residence.

Porte cochere:   A porch-like roof extending over a driveway.

Portfolio lender:   A lender who makes loans with its own funds and keeps the loans on the company’s books–in other words, inside the institution’s “portfolio”–rather than selling the loan on the secondary market.

Portico:   A porch supported by a row of columns.

Possession:   When a buyer signs the papers and receives the keys to the house, the buyer officially takes possession.

Possessor of Land: A person who occupies land and intends to control it. Most often, it is the owner of the property.

Pour-Over Will: A will that leaves some or all estate assets to a trust established before the will-maker’s death.

Power of Attorney: A written instrument by which a principal appoints another to act as his or her agent and authorizes the agent to perform certain acts.

Power of attorney:   A document that authorizes an individual to act on behalf of someone else.

PPA: Short for Phenylpropanolamine, a drug which was used in many over-the-counter cold medicines and weight loss drugs. The FDA issued a recall of PPA after a study linked it to a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke.

Pre-approval letter:   A letter from a lender that informs a seller about the amount of money that a potential buyer can obtain.

Precedent: A rule of law established in earlier court decisions that will generally be followed by other courts.

Precedent: Decision by a court that provides an example or authority for later cases involving a similar question of law. See binding authority.

Preferential lien: A lien obtained under circumstances which make it a preferential payment or transfer and subject to being avoided.

Pre-Injunction: Court order requiring action or forbidding action until a decision can be made whether to issue a permanent injunction. It differs from a temporary restraining order.

Preliminary Hearing: Another term for arraignment.

Prempro: A type of hormone replacement therapy that combines estrogen and progestin. A study that sought to determine the effectiveness of long-term Prempro® use was halted when researchers discovered that it led to an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke, and blood clots.

Prepackaged bankruptcy: Before filing a bankruptcy case debtor and creditors may have negotiated an agreed upon plan of reorganization. The bankruptcy petition can then be filed and the plan confirmed with much less time and expense.

Prepaid expenses:   The costs for taxes, insurance and assessments paid before the due date.

Prepaid interest:   Interest paid before it is due. For example, at the close of a real estate transaction borrowers usually pay for the interest on their loan that falls between the closing period and the first monthly payment.

Prepayment penalty:   Lenders can impose a penalty on a borrower who pays a loan off before its expected end date.

Preponderance of the Evidence: The amount of evidence needed for a plaintiff to win in a civil action. A preponderance of the evidence is the greater weight of the evidence or the more convincing evidence in comparison to the evidence offered in opposition. A plaintiff can win by a preponderance of the evidence even if plaintiff’s evidence merely tips the scales in plaintiff’s favor.

Prequalification:   Many lenders will prequalify a borrower who is shopping for a loan by completing a preliminary assessment of the buyer’s ability to pay for a home.

Prescription Error: A form of medical malpractice that occurs when a patient does not receive the appropriate medication, at the right dose, at the right time.

Present value: The present value of a future amount adjusted to account for inflation.

Pre-Sentence Report: A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision.

Presentment: Declaration or document issued by a grand jury that either makes a neutral report or notes misdeeds by officials charged with specified public duties. It ordinarily does not include a formal charge of crime. A presentment differs from an indictment.

Pre-sold home:   Homes that are sold before they are built.

Pressure relief valve:   A safety vent that relieves excess pressure in a water heater.

Pretermitted Child: A child born after a will is executed, who is not provided for by the will. Most states have laws that provide for a share of estate property to go to such children.

Pre-Trial Conference: A meeting between the judge and the lawyers involved in a lawsuit to narrow the issues in the suit, agree on what will be presented at the trial, and make a final effort to settle the case without a trial.

Prevailing Party: Generally, the winning party in a lawsuit.

Price range:   The range of how much a buyer is willing to pay for a home.

Prima Facie Case: A case in which sufficient evidence has been submitted to allow a jury or judge to make a final determination unless overcome and contradicted by other evidence.

Prima Facie: Literally means “at first sight” or “on the face of it.” “Prima facie evidence” is evidence that is good and sufficient on its face. A plaintiff makes out a “prima facie case” when he or she presents “prima facie evidence,” which means that the plaintiff is permitted to prevail on that evidence alone, unless the defendant can put forth sufficient evidence to overcome it.
Primary Care Physician (PCP): A physician that is employed by or contracts with a managed health care system like an HMO that coordinates all of the member’s medical care. A PCP is usually a family practitioner. PCP’s are also known as “gatekeepers” because they control a member’s access to medical care within a health plan.
Principal: The employer or master of an employee or agent; one who authorizes another to act on his behalf.

Primer:   The initial coat of paint that is applied before the final topcoat.

Principal:   The amount of money that the borrower owes on a mortgage.

Principle of conformity:   The idea that a house will more likely appreciate in value if its size, age, condition and style are similar to, or conform to, other houses in the neighborhood.

Principle of progression:   An appraisal term which states that real estate of lower value is enhanced by the proximity of higher-end properties.

Principle of regression:   An appraisal term which states that the value of higher-end real estate can be brought down by the proximity of too many lower-end properties.

Priority: The Bankruptcy Code’s statutory ranking of unsecured claims that determines the order in which unsecured claims will be paid if there is not enough money to pay all the claims in full.

Privacy fence:   A structure erected between two pieces of property.

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) :   A special type of loan insurance that many lenders require borrowers to purchase if the borrower’s down payment is less than 20 percent of the home’s purchase price.

Privilege: A benefit or immunity conferred by law.

Privileged Communication: Statement protected from forced disclosure in court because the statement was made within a “protected” relationship such as attorney/client. See attorney-client privilege.

Pro Bono: (Latin: “for the good”) Used to describe the provision of services free of charge.

Pro Se: A Latin term meaning “on one’s own behalf”; in courts, it refers to persons who present their own cases without lawyers.

Probable Cause: A reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests.

Probate Court: The court with authority to supervise estate administration.

Probate Estate: Estate property that may be disposed of by a will.

Probate sale:   A real estate sale triggered by the death of the owner, with proceeds to be divided among heirs or creditors.

Probate: The court-supervised process by which a will is determined to be the will-maker’s final statement regarding how the will-maker wants his or her property distributed. It also confirms the appointment of the personal representative of the estate. Probate also means the process by which assets are gathered; applied to pay debts, taxes, and expenses of administration; and distributed to those designated as beneficiaries in the will.
Probation: An alternative to imprisonment allowing a person found guilty of an offense to stay in the community, usually under conditions and under the supervision of a probation officer. A violation of probation can lead to its revocation and to imprisonment.
Procedural Law: Generally, the body of law establishing the method or procedure of enforcing rights or obtaining redress for invasion of rights. Compare with substantive law which establishes rights.

Procedure: The judicial process for the administration of cases before it; the rules governing such process.

Proceeding: The various stages and events involved in a judicial proceeding.
Process Serving: The method by which a defendant in a lawsuit is notified that a plaintiff has filed a suit against him.

Process: A formal writ, most often a summons.

Production home:   Homes that are mass-produced by one builder in a project.

Products Liability: Area of the law involving the liability of manufacturers and sellers of dangerous or defective goods or products.

Professional Services: Services for which a person is licensed, trained and qualified to perform in the capacity of a healthcare provider.

Programming:   A written summation by an architect of a project’s design objectives, constraints and criteria.

Project budget:   A fiscal outline that includes the construction budget and all costs for land, furniture, equipment, financing, professional services, contingencies and owner-furnished goods and services.

Promulgate: To officially announce.

Proof of claim: The official form prescribed by the Bankruptcy Rules by which a creditor files his claim or evidence of debt in a bankruptcy case.

Property division: The distribution of property accumulated by spouses as a result of their joint efforts during the marriage. Sometimes referred to as a “property settlement.”

Property line:   The official dividing line between properties.

Property of the estate: The commencement of a bankruptcy case creates an “estate.” The estate technically becomes the temporary legal owner of all of the debtor’s property. Generally speaking, the debtor’s creditors are paid from nonexempt property of the estate.

Property report:   A disclosure issued by the state when a time-share project is located or sold.

Property Settlement Agreement: An agreement setting forth an agreed division of property owned or acquired by spouses during their marriage; post-nuptial agreement.

Property tax deduction:   The U.S. tax code allows homeowners to deduct the amount they have paid in property taxes.

Property tax:   Property taxes are calculated at about 1.5 percent of the current market value.

Property value:   The value of a piece of property is based on the price a buyer will pay at a certain time.

Propulsid: A prescription heartburn medication used to relieve the symptoms of nighttime heartburn associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease. Propulsid was recalled by the FDA after a report linked it to heart rhythm abnormalities and some deaths.

Proration:   Agreed-upon percentages of certain expenses associated with a piece of property that must be paid by the buyer or the seller at the time of closing.

Prosecutor: A trial lawyer representing the government in a criminal case and the interests of the state in civil matters. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute.

Proximate Cause: The proximate cause of an injury is the primary or moving cause that produces the injury and without which the accident could not have happened, if the injury is one which might be reasonably anticipated or foreseen as a natural consequence of the wrongful act.

Public Defender: Government lawyer who provides free legal defense services to a poor person accused of a crime.
Punitive Damages or Exemplary Damages: Compensation greater than is necessary to pay a plaintiff for a loss. These damages are awarded because the loss was aggravated by violence, oppression, malice, fraud or wanton and wicked conduct on the part of the defendant. Such damages are intended to punish the defendant for his evil behavior or make an example of him or her.

Punch list:   Buyers compile a punch list during the final walk-through detailing items to be fixed before closing.

Purchase agreement:   A document which details the purchase price and conditions of the transaction.

Purchase money security interest: A security interest in property, to the extent that it secures credit given to the debtor for the purpose of acquiring the property and actually used by the debtor for that purpose.
Purchaser: In products liability law, a person who buys a product.

Purchase-money mortgage:  A mortgage that a borrower obtains to acquire a property.