Distinguish Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Distinguish?

v. Although there is apparent similarity, the argument that the rule in a decision by an appeals court does not apply to a certain case. It is “distinguished.”

History and Meaning of Distinguish

The term "distinguish" is frequently used in legal writing to denote the process of showing differences between similar cases. It has been used in legal language for many years and is part of the standard vocabulary of legal professionals. In legal writing, "distinguish" is usually used to argue why a previous case or legal rule should not apply in a specific situation because there are significant differences between the cases.

Examples of Distinguish

  1. In a case where a plaintiff received a settlement from a car accident, another plaintiff involved in a similar incident sues for damages. The defendant could argue that the two cases have significant differences, and the previous settlement should not apply in the current case.

  2. In a famous case involving harassment in the workplace, the court found the employer guilty of creating a hostile work environment. In a subsequent case with similar circumstances, the defendant may argue that the circumstances are different enough to distinguish from the previous decision.

  3. In a medical malpractice case, a plaintiff may argue that their particular case is distinct from previous cases with a similar procedure and, therefore, should be treated differently.

Legal Terms Similar to Distinguish

Here are some legal terms related to "distinguish":

  • Discrimination: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people
  • Differentiation: the act of distinguishing between two or more items
  • Deference: the act of showing respect or submitting to another authority