preponderance of evidence – in civil suits, the party whose evidence is more convincing has a “preponderance of the evidence” on its side and must, as a matter of law, prevail in the lawsuit because it has met its burden of proof

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n. (17c)

1. Superiority in weight, importance, or influence; the quality of having a greater number or quantity of something.preponderate, vb. — preponderant, adj. [1]

1. Superior in influence, importance, weight, or strength. [2]

preponderance of the evidence:

1. The greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact but by evidence that has the most convincing force; superior evidentiary weight that, though not sufficient to free the mind wholly from all reasonable doubt, is still sufficient to incline a fair and impartial mind to one side of the issue rather than the other.  *  This is the burden of proof in most civil trials, in which the jury is instructed to find for the party that, on the whole, has the stronger evidence, however slight the edge may be. — aka preponderance of proof; balance of probability; greater weight of the evidence.  See REASONABLE DOUBT.  Cf. clear and convincing evidence under EVIDENCE; BURDEN OF PROOF. [1]

1. The weight, credit, and value of the aggregate evidence on either side; the greater weight of the evidence; the greater weight of the credible evidence.  In the last analysis, the probability of the truth; evidence more convincing as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto. 30 Am J2d Ev § 1164.
The expression does not mean the mere numerical array of witnesses, it means weight, credit, and value. Willcox v Hines, 100 Tenn 524, 45 SW 781. [3]

1. The degree of proof required in most civil actions.  It means that the greater weight and value of the credible evidence, taken as a whole, belongs to one side in a lawsuit rather than to the other side.  in other words, the party whose evidence is more convincing has a “preponderance of the evidence” on its side and must, as a matter of law, prevail in the lawsuit because it has met its burden of proof.  The expression “preponderance of the evidence” has nothing to do with the number of witnesses a party presents, only with the credibility and value of their testimony.
     Compare beyond a reasonable doubt; clear and convincing evidence.
     See weight of the evidence. [2]

     Excerpt from Charles Herman Kinnane’s A First Book on Anglo-American Law (2d ed. 1952):

     “Criminal convictions are so serious in their consequences that it is felt that an accused person should be freed, if there is any fair or reasonable doubt about his guilt, even though there seems to be considerable likelihood that he did commit the crime. . . . In civil cases, however, the consequence of losing a case, although serious enough in many cases, is not considered to be such as to require so stringent a rule.  Accordingly the plaintiff is entitled to a verdict if he proves the case ‘by the preponderance of the evidence.’ in other words, he is entitled to a verdict even though there may be a reasonable doubt as to the liability of the accused, if the jury is satisfied nevertheless that the plaintiff has proved his case. [4]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[4]: Charles Herman Kinnane, A First Book on Anglo-American Law 562 (2d ed. 1952).


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