California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

200. Obligation to Prove—More Likely True Than Not True

A party must persuade you, by the evidence presented in court, that what he or she is required to prove is more likely to be true than not true. This is referred to as “the burden of proof.”

After weighing all of the evidence, if you cannot decide that something is more likely to be true than not true, you must conclude that the party did not prove it. You should consider all the evidence, no matter which party produced the evidence.

In criminal trials, the prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But in civil trials, such as this one, the party who is required to prove something need prove only that it is more likely to be true than not true.

New September 2003; Revised February 2005

Directions for Use

Evidence Code section 502 requires the court to instruct the jury regarding which party bears the burden of proof on each issue and the requisite degree of proof.

For an instruction on clear and convincing evidence, see CACI No. 201, More Likely True—Clear and Convincing Proof.

Sources and Authority

  • Evidence Code section 115 provides: “ ‘Burden of proof’ means the obligation of a party to establish by evidence a requisite degree of belief concerning a fact in the mind of the trier of fact or the court. The burden of proof may require a party to raise a reasonable doubt concerning the existence or nonexistence of a fact or that he establish the existence or nonexistence of a fact by a preponderance of the evidence, by clear and convincing proof, or by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Except as otherwise provided by law, the burden of proof requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence.”
  • Evidence Code section 500 provides: “Except as otherwise provided by law, a party has the burden of proof as to each fact the existence or nonexistence of which is essential to the claim for relief or defense that he is asserting.”
  • Each party is entitled to the benefit of all the evidence, including the evidence produced by an adversary. (Williams v. Barnett (1955) 135 Cal.App.2d 607, 612 [287 P.2d 789]; 7 Witkin, California Procedure (4th ed. 1997) Trial, § 305, p. 352.)
  • The general rule in California is that “ ‘[i]ssues of fact in civil cases are determined by a preponderance of testimony.’ ” (Weiner v. Fleischman (1991) 54 Cal.3d 476, 483 [286 Cal.Rptr. 40, 816 P.2d 892], citation omitted.)
  • The preponderance-of-the-evidence standard “simply requires the trier of fact ‘to believe that the existence of a fact is more probable than its nonexistence.’ ” (In re Angelia P. (1981) 28 Cal.3d 908, 918 [171 Cal.Rptr. 637, 623 P.2d 198], citation omitted.)
  • “Preponderance of the evidence” “ ‘means what it says, viz., that the evidence on one side outweighs, preponderates over, is more than, the evidence on the other side, not necessarily in number of witnesses or quantity, but in its effect on those to whom it is addressed.’ ” (Glage v. Hawes Firearms Co. (1990) 226 Cal.App.3d 314, 325 [276 Cal.Rptr. 430] (quoting People v. Miller (1916) 171 Cal. 649, 652 [154 P. 468] and holding that it was prejudicial misconduct for jurors to refer to the dictionary for definition of the word “preponderance”).)

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin, California Evidence (4th ed. 2000) Burden of Proof and Presumptions, § 35

Jefferson, California Evidence Benchbook (3d ed. 1997) Ch. 45, Burdens of Proof and of Producing Evidence; Presumptions

4 California Trial Guide, Unit 91, Jury Deliberations and Rendition of Verdict, § 91.20 (Matthew Bender)

48 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 551, Trial, §§ 551.90, 551.92 (Matthew Bender)