Wafer

n. A small circle of red paper used to seal a deed instead of sealing wax.

Wage

n. 1) Any compensation measured by time, piece or otherwise. 2) Salary, pay, commission or remuneration for work.

Wagering contract

A mutual promise by which each party gains or loses by teh outcome of an uncertain event. Each party’s promise is her or his only interest in the transaction.

Waive

v. to voluntarily give up something, including not enforcing a term of a contract (such as insisting on payment on an exact date), or knowingly giving up a legal right such as a speedy trial, a jury trial or a hearing on extradition (the transfer to another state’s jurisdiction of one accused of a crime in the other state). To surrender or renounce a right, privilege or claim.

Waiver

n. the intentional and voluntary giving up of something, such as a right, either by an express statement or by conduct (such as not enforcing a right). The problem which may arise is that a waiver may be interpreted as giving up the right to enforce the same right in the future.

Walkout

n. The withdrawal of employees from their place of employment.

Wanton

adj. 1) grossly negligent to the extent of being recklessly unconcerned with the safety of people or property.

Ward

n. 1) a person (usually a minor) who has a guardian appointed by the court to care for and take responsibility for that person. A governmental agency may take temporary custody of a minor for his/her protection and care if the child is suffering from parental neglect or abuse, or has been in trouble with the law. Such a child is a “ward of the court” (if the custody is court-ordered) or a “ward of the state.” 2) a political division of a city, much like a council district.

Warehouse

n. Land that is used as a repository, storehouse or shed for the storage of goods and includes any building or structure from which goods are distributed for sale off the premises, but does not include a building or structure, the primary purpose of which is the sale of goods to the public.

Warrant

1) n. an order (writ) of a court which directs a law enforcement officer (usually a sheriff) to arrest and bring a person before the judge, such as a person who is charged with a crime, convicted of a crime but failed to appear for sentencing, owes a fine or is in contempt of court. A “bench warrant” is an order to appear issued by the court when a person does not appear for a hearing, which can be resolved by posting bail or appearing. A “search warrant” is an order permitting a law enforcement officer to search a particular premises and/or person for certain types of evidence, based on a declaration by a law enforcement official, including a district attorney. 2) v. to claim to a purchaser that merchandise is sound, of good quality or will perform as it should, or that title to real property belongs to the seller.

Warranty

n. a written statement of good quality of merchandise, clear title to real estate or that a fact stated in a contract is true. An “express warranty” is a definite written statement and “implied warranty” is based on the circumstances surrounding the sale or the creation of the contract. A guarantee given on the performance of a product or the doing of a certain thing

Warranty deed

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

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.

Waste

n. 1) any damage to real property by a tenant which lessens its value to the landlord, owner or future owner. An owner can sue for damages for waste, terminate a lease of one committing waste and/or obtain an injunction against further waste. 2) garbage, which may include poisonous effluents.

Watered stock

n. shares of stock of a corporation which have been issued at a price far greater than true value. In this case, the actual value of all shares is less than the value carried on the books of the corporation.

Weight of evidence

n. the strength, value and believability of evidence presented on a factual issue by one side as compared to evidence introduced by the other side.

Wet reckless

n. a plea to a charge of reckless driving which was “alcohol related.” A wet reckless results from a plea bargain to reduce a charge of drunk driving when the amount of blood alcohol was borderline illegal, there was no accident and no prior record. The result is a lower fine, no jail time and no record of a drunk driving conviction, but if there is a subsequent drunk driving conviction the “wet reckless” will be considered a “prior” drunk driving conviction and result in a heavier sentence required for a second conviction.

Whiplash

n. a common neck and/or back injury suffered in automobile accidents (particularly from being hit from the rear) in which the head and/or upper back is snapped back and forth suddenly and violently by the impact. The injury is to the “soft tissues” and sometimes to the vertebrae, does not always evidence itself for a day or two, and can cause pain and disability for periods up to a year. The degree of injury and the pain and suffering from whiplash are often in dispute in claims and lawsuits for damages due to negligent driving.

White collar crime

n. a generic term for crimes involving commercial fraud, cheating consumers, swindles, insider trading on the stock market, embezzlement and other forms of dishonest business schemes. The term comes from the out-of-date assumption that business executives wear white shirts with ties. It also theoretically distinguishes these crimes and criminals from physical crimes, supposedly likely to be committed by “blue collar” workers.

Widow

n. a woman whose husband died while she was married to him and who has not since remarried. A divorced woman whose ex-husband dies is not a widow, ex- cept for the purpose of certain Social Security benefits traceable to the ex-husband.

Widow’s election

n. the choice a widow makes between accepting what her husband left her in his will and what she would receive by the laws of succession. Example: the state law in which the husband died would give his widow one-half of his estate by the law of succession (the other half going to the children) if there were no will, but in his will the late husband left his widow only one-quarter of his estate. She can elect to take the one-half.

Widower

n. a man whose wife died while he was married to her and who has not remarried.

Will

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. A written and signed statement, made by an individual, which provides for the disposition of their property when they die.

Will contest

n. a lawsuit challenging the validity of a will and/or its terms. Bases for contesting a will include the competency of the maker of the will (testator) at the time the will was signed, the “undue influence” of someone who used pressure to force the testator to give him/her substantial gifts in the will, the existence of another will or trust, challenging illegal terms or technical faults in the execution of the will, such as not having been validly witnessed. A trial of the will contest must be held before the will can be probated, since if the will is invalid, it cannot be probated.

Willful

adj. referring to acts which are intentional, conscious and directed toward achieving a purpose. Some willful conduct which has wrongful or unfortunate results is considered “hardheaded,” “stubborn” and even “malicious.”

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.

Willfully

adv. referring to doing something intentionally, purposefully and stubbornly.

Wind up

v. to liquidate (sell or dispose of) assets of a corporation or partnership.

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.

Wiretapping

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.”

Withdrawal

n. 1) in criminal law, leaving a conspiracy to commit a crime before the actual crime is committed, which is similar to “renunciation.” If the withdrawal is before any overt criminal act the withdrawer may escape prosecution. 2) the removal of money from a bank account.

Witness

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.

Witness stand

n. a chair at the end of the judge’s bench on the jury box side, usually with a low “modesty screen,” where a witness sits and gives testimony after he/she has sworn to tell the truth. When called to testify the witness “takes the stand.” Most witness stands are equipped with a microphone linked to an amplifying system so that judge, attorneys and jury can hear the testimony clearly.

Witnesseth

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 art

n. 1) specialized language with meaning peculiar to a particular profession, art, technical work, science or other field of endeavor. 2) jargon known only to people who specialize in a particular occupation.

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 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.” 1) the work is created by an employee within the scope of employment; or 2) 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.

Work product

n. the writings, notes, memoranda, reports on conversations with the client or witness, research and confidential materials which an attorney has developed while representing a client, particularly in preparation for trial. A “work product” may not be demanded or subpenaed by the opposing party, as are documents, letters by and from third parties and other evidence, since the work product reflects the confidential strategy, tactics and theories to be employed by the attorney.

Workers’ compensation

A program to provide financial, rehabilitation and medical assistance 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. It is not insure, nor is it damages, nor settlement. It is not available to all who find employment in the workplace, but only to those who are employed in industry subject to levy.

Workout

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.

World Court

n. the Court of International Justice, founded by the United Nations in 1945, which hears international disputes, but only when the parties (usually governments) agree to have the issue heard and to be bound by the decision.

Writ

n. 1) a written order of a judge requiring specific action by the person or entity to whom the writ is directed. 2)A document which originates certain legal proceedings.

Writ of attachment

n. a court order directing a sheriff (or other law enforcement officer) to seize property of a defendant which would satisfy a judgment against that defendant.

Writ of execution

n. a court order to a sheriff to enforce a judgment by levying on real or personal property of a judgment debtor to obtain funds to satisfy the judgment amount (pay the winning plaintiff).

Writ of mandate

n. a court order to a government agency, including another court, to follow the law by correcting its prior actions or ceasing illegal acts.

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.

Wrongful termination

n. a right of an employee to sue his/her employer for damages (loss of wage and “fringe” benefits, and, if against “public policy,” for punitive damages). To bring such a suit the discharge of the employee must have been without “cause,” and the employee a) had an express contract of continued employment or there was an “implied” contract based on the circumstances of his/her hiring or legitimate reasons to believe the employment would be permanent, b) there is a violation of statutory prohibitions against discrimination due to race, gender, sexual preference or age, or c) the discharge was contrary to “public policy” such as in retribution for exposing dishonest acts of the employer. An employee who believes he/she has been wrongfully terminated may bring an action (file a suit) for damages for discharge, as well as for breach of contract, but the court decisions have become increasingly strict in limiting an employee’s grounds for suit.