Affirmative Defense Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Affirmative Defense, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Affirmative Defense?

n. ancillary jurisdiction allows a federal court to assert jurisdiction over claims that are not sufficiently related or subordinated to an action properly within the court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Usually, it is invoked to permit a federal court to adjudicate claims that technically are jurisdictionally defective so that the court can pass its judgement over the whole issue.

History and Meaning of Affirmative Defense

An affirmative defense is a legal term that refers to a type of defense used in legal cases where the defendant admits to committing the alleged act but argues that they should not be held legally responsible for it. Such defenses work to undermine the plaintiff's claim and can be used to either completely negate the plaintiff's arguments or reduce the penalties imposed on the defendant.

In the past, a defendant was only required to challenge the facts alleged by the plaintiff to avoid liability. However, with the advent of affirmative defenses, defendants can not only challenge the facts but can also provide their own set of reasons why they should not be held liable.

Examples of Affirmative Defense

Examples of affirmative defenses include the statute of limitations, self-defense, duress, and consent. In a case where a defendant admits to committing assault, self-defense can be used as an affirmative defense to show that the defendant acted out of necessity to protect their own life or that of another person.

In a contract dispute, the statute of limitations can be an affirmative defense if the plaintiff has waited too long to bring the case to court. Additionally, consent can be an affirmative defense in cases of assault or battery if the plaintiff had agreed to engage in the activity that resulted in injury.

Legal Terms Similar to Affirmative Defense

Related terms to affirmative defense include counterclaims, which is a claim brought by the defendant against the plaintiff in response to the plaintiff's claim. Another related term is contributory or comparative negligence, which is a defense used in personal injury cases where the plaintiff's own actions contributed to their injury. Finally, the burden of proof is another legal term often connected with affirmative defenses, as it is the responsibility of the defendant to provide evidence to avoid liability.