Gravamen Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Gravamen?

(n) Gravamen is the fundamental, basic or relevant cause on which a claim or complaint or activity is based or developed. Eg. Gravamen in a motor accident claim is the negligence of the driver. Latin word means ‘to weigh down’.

History and Meaning of Gravamen

Gravamen is a legal term that has its origins in Latin, where it means 'to weigh down.' The term is used to describe the key or fundamental cause behind a legal claim or complaint. Gravamen provides the basis on which a legal case is built and the evidence that is presented. In summary, Gravamen refers to the factual and true cause of a legal claim.

Examples of Gravamen

  1. In a product liability claim, such as in the case of a defective drug, the gravamen may be the harm caused by the drug and the negligence of the manufacturer in failing to include adequate warnings.
  2. If an employee is suing their employer for wrongful termination, the gravamen may be the employer's breach of the employment contract or discrimination against the employee based on grounds like age, race, or gender.
  3. In a personal injury lawsuit arising from a car accident, the gravamen could be the driver's negligence, which may include distracted driving or failure to yield to the right of way.

Legal Terms Similar to Gravamen

  1. Cause of action: the legal right to seek a remedy for certain harm caused by another party.
  2. Tort: a wrongful act, other than a breach of contract, that causes harm and results in legal liability.
  3. Damages: monetary compensation or other relief awarded to a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit.