Friday, November 26, 2010

Filing A Lawsuit: Types of Pleadings

Pleadings are the first papers in a litigation, where the parties lay out their respective positions.  The most basic pleadings are the complaint and answer.  In the complaint, the plaintiff explains why they are invoking the court's jurisdiction and what their claims are.  In the Answer, the defendant either admits or denies the plaintiff's allegations, asserts its affirmative defenses, and may also assert counterclaims against the plaintiff,  cross-claim against a co-defendant, or third-party claims bringing in a new party.

A complaint initiates what's called a "plenary action," meaning that it's a broad-scope litigation following all applicable procedural formalities.  The defendant can either move to dismiss or answer.  

In New York State practice, there is a second round of pleadings called a Bill of Particulars, where the parties ask for more detail concerning the allegations of the complaint or affirmative defenses.   Although bills of particulars are echanged (and at times supplemented or amended) during the discovery process, they are pleadings, not a discovery device, and so are really only meant to clarify the claims and issues.  

Once an answer is received, there's discovery: first the exchange of documents and things, then depositons.  In New York State practice,  Once discover is completed, there's motion practice to determine what, if any, issues can be decided as a matter of law.  Then, there's pre-trial proceedings; then a trial.

Other types of proceedings have their own pleadings. One example is a special proceeding, which is a summary proceeding wherein a hearing date is scheduled immediately.  Landlord-tenant disputes, Article 78 proceedings,, and foreclosures are typical examples of special proceedings. The initiating pleading in a special proceeding is usually called a "petition" and the equivalent of an answer is usually called a "response and objections at law."  

"Pleadings" Table of Contents || Format and Procedure >>

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