Precedent Law and Legal Definition

Precedent means deferring to a prior reported opinion of an appeals court which forms the basis in the future on the same legal question decided in the prior judgment. The requirement that a lower court must follow a precedent is called stare decisis.

Precedent means that the principle announced by a higher court must be followed in later cases. A recent decision in the same jurisdiction as the instant case will be given great weight. Decisions of lower courts are not binding on higher courts, although from time to time a higher court will adopt the reasoning and conclusion of a lower court. In contract law, the term "condition precedent," means a situation which must exist before a party to a contract has to perform.