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In Law, what does "Actionable" Mean?

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  • Written By: A. Pasbjerg
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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The legal term actionable refers to a situation for which there is enough evidence to support the filing of a lawsuit. In order to be considered actionable, there must be enough facts to support the stance that a wrongdoing occurred and to meet the legal requirements to make the charge. It is also necessary to be able to prove that those facts are true and can therefore substantiate the claim. If these prerequisites cannot be met, a suit should not be filed.

In order to demonstrate that a case is actionable, the plaintiff must first state the cause of action. He or she must clearly outline the major premise of the case, which is what misconduct took place and what law was broken. The minor premise, or supporting facts for the claim, must then be supplied. This is then typically followed by the logical conclusion that a suit can be legally filed against the defendant and that appropriate consequences should be expected.

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Whether or not a situation is actionable can be open to some interpretation. The circumstances under which potentially unlawful activity occurs may not always be clear cut, or the perceptions of those involved may not always coincide. Therefore, a lawsuit may be filed where the plaintiff and his or her legal counsel feel that the case is actionable but it may not necessarily meet the required standards. A good example of this type of situation is in hostile environment sexual harassment suits. Often these cases are based on the perceptions of one person’s behavior by another and are dependent on his or her personal definition of what has happened.

If a lawsuit is filed that clearly does not meet the standards to be considered actionable, the plaintiff in that case risks the possibility of a separate suit being filed in return. Known as an action for malicious prosecution, it is the recourse for those who are sued under baseless or hostile allegations that are obviously false. This type of suit typically allows the defendant in the original case to sue the plaintiff for monetary compensation for the costs associated with the unjustified suit. In order to avoid this risk, it is very important for a plaintiff and his or her lawyer to carefully review their case and the supporting facts to ensure legal requirements are met before filing.

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