Under Cyprus laws, similarly to common law, the “burden of proof” is a legal expression used to define the duty placed upon a party in a trial to prove or disprove a disputed fact. The burden of proof is the most significant rule of evidence law in the trial of civil cases where the rights and obligations of individuals are being decided.
There are two principal kinds of burden, the “legal burden” and the “evidential burden”. The “legal burden” may be defined as the obligation imposed on a party by a rule of law to prove a fact in issue. In civil cases before Cyprus courts the “legal burden” lies according to the principle “he who asserts must prove” and it is a necessity to read the pleadings of the case in order to see who bears the burden on the particular fact in issue.
In a basic civil case in Cyprus, the Plaintiff, who is the party bringing the lawsuit, will, through his/her Cyprus lawyer before the court, assert the elements of his case, for example the elements of a tort or breach of contract. The Plaintiff’s lawyer will then have the “legal burden” of proving his assertions and will have to establish that there is a tort or that there is a contract that has been breached.
A Defendant who through his defence lawyer in Cyprus merely denies the Plaintiff’s claim will have no “legal burden” but if he raises an affirmative defense like for example if he alleges contributory negligence in a negligence action against him then the defendant will bear the “legal burden” of proving this defense, before a Cyprus district court.
The “evidential burden” under Cyprus law may be defined as the “burden of adducing evidence” meaning the obligation that a party has, to adduce sufficient evidence of a fact to justify the Court considering the point and making a finding on that fact in favor of the party so obliged. Whether a party has discharged this burden is decided only during the course of the trial and, in civil cases, there is usually no difficulty with the “evidential burden”, as costs, penalties and procedural rules ensure that the parties will rarely pursue matters that cannot be backed by some evidence.
Both in the “legal” and “evidential burden” the “standard of proof” before Cyprus courts which is required in civil cases to be met by the parties seeking to discharge the burden is “proof on the balance of probabilities”. This is broadly applied by the Cyprus courts, as was explained by Lord Denning in Miller v. Minister of Pensions (1947) 2 All ER 372, as evidence which is “more probable than not, the burden is discharged, but if the probabilities are equal it is not”.
In other words, the party bearing the burden of proof in Cyprus, for example the Plaintiff, has to show by a “preponderance of evidence” or “weight of evidence” that all the facts necessary to win a judgment are probably true. A preponderance or weight of the evidence simply means that one side has more clear and convincing evidence in its favor than the other, even by the smallest degree. Clear and convincing evidence is evidence that establishes the truth of a disputed fact by a high probability.
However, sometimes civil actions in Cyprus can involve allegations of varying gravity and so, if the allegation being made is very serious then it is obvious that more evidence will be needed to tip the balance of probabilities. In a civil case considering a fraud which is an allegation very grave for the life and work of an individual a Cyprus Court would need more evidence in order to be satisfied that fraud was more probable than not than it would if the allegation were one, for example of breach of warranty.
Considering all the above, it becomes clear why the “burden of proof” rule in Cyprus is of huge importance in civil proceedings as it defines which party wins and which looses a case and as a result of that it affects the legal status of individuals. Cyprus lawyers, Cyprus barristers and Cyprus solicitors are well aware of these rules when being prepared for their action or defence in representing their clients before Cyprus courts for civil actions.