Test case

A legal action that serves as a precedent in deciding similar succeeding cases.

A test case can be said to be a legal action that serves as a precedent in deciding similar succeeding cases. It is, of course, important that the legal action culminates in a binding decision if it is to serve its purpose as a test case. To this end there is usually a need for legal action to be taken in order to bring the matter to the attention of the courts so that a ruling on the legal issue can be made.

The importance of the case becomes apparent because not only is it important to the litigants involved but there may also be other cases concerning the same question of law that is in doubt or that needs resolving.

The outcome of a test case will not only have significance for the person bringing the case before the court but also for others.

The legal issue in question may not previously have been the subject of the attention of the courts and therefore there is no precedent to follow so there is no effective way of proceeding until the matter is resolved. A test case may rule on an untested point of law or overturn or confirm a prevailing judicial interpretation. Test cases can also be a way of speeding up the law in some areas where there has been a problem or a misunderstanding of problems such as assisted suicide and homelessness.

Test cases can generate a lot of publicity for pressure groups.

Test case: Woman launches legal fight to 'harvest' sperm

Foetal damage caused by alcohol 'equivalent to attempted manslaughter'

Homeless win housing test case | UK news | The Guardian

Sir Terry Pratchett ready to be suicide law 'test case' - BBC

court of appeal gives judgment in assisted dying test cases 


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