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Legal Glossary (V-W)

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An exception to a zoning ordinance, usually granted by a local government. For example, if you own an oddly shaped lot that could not accommodate a home in accordance with your city’s setback requirement, you could apply at the appropriate office for a variance allowing you to build closer to a boundary line.


People who are summoned to the courthouse so that they may be questioned and perhaps chosen as jurors in trials of civil or criminal cases.


State laws or court rules that establish the proper court to hear a case, often based on the convenience of the defendant. Because state courts have jurisdiction to hear cases from a wide geographical area (for example, California courts have jurisdiction involving most disputes arising between California residents), additional rules, called rules of venue, have been developed to ensure that the defendant is not needlessly inconvenienced. For example, the correct venue for one Californian to sue another is usually limited to the court in the judicial district where the defendant lives, an accident occurred or a contract was signed or to be carried out. Practically, venue rules mean that a defendant can’t usually be sued far from where he lives or does business, if no key events happened at that location. Venue for a criminal case is normally the judicial district where the crime was committed.

vertical privity

A legal relationship in corporate law that exists between companies in the chain of distribution of a product. This relationship creates responsibilities between the companies involved, including being liable for defects in the product. For example, vertical privity exists between the manufacturer of a car and the dealership that sells it. Therefore, both the dealer and the manufacturer are liable for defects in cars sold by the dealership.

vested remainder

An unconditional right to receive real property at some point in the future. A vested interest may be created by a deed or a will. For example, if Julie’s will leaves her house to her daughter, but the daughter gains possession only after Julie’s husband dies, the daughter has a vested remainder in the house.

view ordinance

A law adopted by some cities or towns with desirable vistas — such as those in the mountains or overlooking the ocean — that protects a property owner from having his or her view obstructed by growing trees. View ordinances don’t cover buildings or other structures that may block views.


A stamp placed in a foreign national’s passport by an official at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States. All visas allow their holders to enter the United States. Visas can be designated as either immigrant visas or nonimmigrant visas.

visa waiver program

A program that allows nationals from certain countries to come to the United States without a visa as tourists for 90 days. Persons coming to the United States under this program receive green-colored I-94 cards. They are not permitted to extend their stay or change their statuses.

visitation rights

The right to see a child regularly, typically awarded by the court to the parent who does not have physical custody of the child. The court will deny visitation rights only if it decides that visitation would hurt the child so much that the parent should be kept away.

volenti non fit injuria

Latin for “to a willing person, no injury is done.” This doctrine holds that a person who knowingly and willingly puts himself in a dangerous situation cannot sue for any resulting injuries.


See search warrant or arrest warrant.


See guaranty.

warranty adjustment program

See secret warranty program.

warranty deed

A seldom-used type of deed that contains express assurances about the legal validity of the title being transferred.

warranty of fitness

See implied warranty.

warranty of merchantability

See implied warranty.

wash sale

The selling and repurchasing of an asset, usually stock, within a very short time frame. People used to do this to realize a loss for tax purposes, but the IRS caught on and made such losses non-deductible for most taxpayers.


A document in which you specify what is to be done with your property when you die and name your executor. You can also use your will to name a guardian for your young children.

willful tort

A harmful act that is committed in an intentional and conscious way. For example, if your neighbor builds an ugly new fence and you intentionally run it down with your truck, that’s a willful tort. But accidentally backing into the fence as you pull out of your driveway is not willful, though it’s still a tort.

winding up

The process of paying off expenses and creditors, settling accounts, and collecting and distributing (to shareholders and owners) whatever assets then remain, all with the ultimate goal of liquidating or closing down a corporation or partnership.


Eavesdropping on private conversations by connecting listening equipment to a telephone line. To be legal, wire tapping must be authorized by a search warrant or court order.

with prejudice

A final and binding decision by a judge about a legal matter that prevents further pursuit of the same matter in any court. When a judge makes such a decision, he dismisses the matter “with prejudice.”


A person who testifies under oath at a deposition or trial, providing firsthand or expert evidence. In addition, the term also refers to someone who watches another person sign a document and then adds his name to confirm (called “attesting”) that the signature is genuine.


Legal jargon meaning “to take notice of,” used in phrases such as “On this day I do hereby witnesseth the signing of this document.”

words of procreation

Language used to leave property to a person and his or her descendants, which typically take the form “to A, and the heirs of his body,” where A is the person receiving the property.

work for hire

See work made for hire.

work made for hire

A work created by an employee within the scope of employment or a work commissioned an author under contract. With a work for hire, the author and copyright owner of a work is the person who pays for it, not the person who creates it. The premise of this principle is that a business that authorizes and pays for a work owns the rights to the work. There are two distinct ways that a work will be classified as “made for hire.”the work is created by an employee within the scope of employment; or the work is commissioned, is the subject of a written agreement, and falls within a special group of categories (a contribution to a collective work, a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, a translation, a supplementary work, a compilation, an atlas, an instructional text, a test, or as answer material for a test). The work made for hire status of a work affects the length of copyright protection and termination rights.

workers’ compensation

A program that provides replacement income and medical expenses to employees who are injured or become ill due to their jobs. Financial benefits may also extend to workers’ dependents and to the survivors of workers who are killed on the job. In most circumstances, workers’ compensation pays relatively modest amounts and prevents the worker or dependents from suing the employer for the injuries or death.

workmen’s compensation

See workers’ compensation.


A debtor’s plan to take care of a debt, by paying it off or through loan forgiveness. Workouts are often created to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure proceedings.

wrongful death

Death caused by the fault of another. Examples of wrongful conduct that may lead to death include drinking and driving, manufacturing a deficient product, building an unstable structure or failing to diagnose a fatal disease.

wrongful death recoveries

After a wrongful death lawsuit, the portion of a judgment intended to compensate a plaintiff for having to live without a deceased person. The compensation is intended to cover the earnings and the emotional comfort and support the deceased person would have provided.

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