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What Is a Gravamen?

When a person or entity is found to have committed a wrong or an offense, such a person or entity may be subject to a lawsuit by the people or entities that have been harmed. Every lawsuit is rooted in a complaint or grievance. This complaint or grievance is referred to as a gravamen. A gravamen is the most fundamental part of a lawsuit as it is the basis for all litigation processes. Without a complaint or grievance, no lawsuit can be filed. The term gravamen can also apply to the most severe of grievances.


For a lawsuit to become successful, it must be proven that gravamen is clear and demonstrated by the defendant or the accused. For example, a person is held accountable for the death of another due to negligence. The gravamen then would be wrongful death. In the case of multiple counts of offenses or grievances, the gravest one would be considered the gravamen. For example, a person could be charged with fraud and obstruction of justice. In this case, fraud would be the more severe crime compared to obstruction of justice, and would fraud would thus be referred to as the gravamen.


Without the gravamen, there would be no case. Therefore, the gravamen is the most essential in a matter of litigation. The grievance or complaint is what initiates the litigation processes and must be proven for a plaintiff or prosecutor to win a lawsuit. Failure to prove the existence of the gravamen leads to the freedom of the accused or defendant.

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