Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Theory of the Case Definition:

A short, succinct statement of the theme of an action as evidence will be presented, organized and support at trial.

Related Terms: Trial

Ponzer and Dodd define a theory of a case as follows:

“A theory of a case is a cogent statement of an advocate’s position that justifies the verdict he or she is seeking. A theory of the case is not necessarily cast in the words that will be sued with the jury, but words that are heard in the lawyer’s mind as the case is prepared. The goal of the trial plan is to create factual support for the advocate’s theory of the case….

”If the advocate has no theory of the case, she would have no unifying focal point to the various portions of the case….

"Only by adopting a theory of the case can a lawyer prepare for trial."

In Fundamentals of Trial techniques, the authors write:

“A theory of a case is simply your position and approach to all the undisputed and disputed evidence which will be represented at trial…. That position must remain consistent during each phase of the trial…. The theory of the case must be developed before the trial begins….”

Another Canadian law book1 on civil litigation writes:

“The theory (of the case) is the skeleton which defines and shapes the body of the case. … The theory is an anchor and a reality check.”


  • Harris, David and others, British Columbia Civil Litigation Handbook, 2nd Ed. (Vancouver: Continuing Legal Education Society, 2005), page 13[Note 1]
  • Mauet, Thomas and others, Fundamentals of Trial Techniques, Canadian Edition (Toronto: Little, Brown ands Company, 1984), pages 7-8
  • Ponzer, Larry, and Dodd, Roger, Cross-Examination Science and Techniques, 2nd Ed. (San Fransisco: LexisNexis, 2004), page 2-3. The authors appear to use the phrase “theme of the case” interchangeably with theory of the case.

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