Presumptions

Previously, there was a good deal of controversy among legal professionals and scholars over the effect of presumptions, but these have largely ended, at least in the federal system. Presumptions are just that, a presumption that certain evidence is what it is on its face. Sometimes, however, a presumption can be rebutted by other evidence. There are two kinds of rebuttable presumptions: those that affect the burden of producing evidence and those that affect the burden of proof. In most cases, courts interpret presumptions as rebuttable. A list of rebuttable presumptions includes the following:

  • that a letter that has been correctly addressed and properly mailed is received by the addressee in the ordinary course of the mail
  • that a person who possesses a thing is also the owner of that thing
  • that a writing is dated accurately
  • that a written obligation that has been surrendered to the debtor has been paid by the debtor (and vice versa)
  • that some specific ancient documents are authentic
  • that statements in the records of a process server are true
  • that when a receipt for a payment on an installment debt is given, the debtor has paid all previous installment payments
  • that the defendant was negligent when the requirements of res ipsa loquitur have been proven
  • the presumptions that money or property delivered is in fact owed to the recipient

A presumption is not considered evidence. But if an opponent to a presumption puts on no evidence to rebut the presumption, the judge or jury must assume the existence of the presumed fact. On the other hand, if an opponent to a presumption does provide evidence to rebut the presumption, the presumption has no further effect.


Inside Presumptions