Friday, November 26, 2010

How to File a Lawsuit: Pleadings

Although it is often considered merely administrative, drafting a pleading can be an art.  In law school, I spent a while working part-time for a small firm that did mostly personal injury work.  While I was there, they took on a complicated severence dispute.  The plaintiff was an international finance executive who had gone blind from diabetes.  He was pursuaded to resign with a reduced severance package based on the promise that he would also be receiving long term disability benefits.  Then, his benefits were denied.  Because employee benefits were involved, we had to sue in Federal Court under ERISA.

The complaint I drafted was very unlike the firm's usual fodder.  I learned the area of law, read everything I could on drafting a pleading, and modeled it on samples from similar cases.  The attorney assigned, however, didn't like it.  She cut it down, took out the headings, and turned it into a list of vague, non-specific, allegations similar to the complaints filed for the firm's day-to-day car accident cases. After the now-gutted complaint was filed, the judge required it to be re-drafted, saying it was "not a model of clarity."  The criticism stung, but I took some satisfaction in knowing that my original work had been right, or at least more in the right direction.  

The point of the story is that "a model of clarity" is a good standard for any written work, and a pleading is no different. 


* Types of Pleadings

* Format and Procedure

* Drafting The Complaint

          - Intro Paragraphs

          - Jurisdictional Statement

          - Parties Section

          - Facts Common to All Causes of Action

          - Conditions Precedent

          - Causes of Action

          - Demand for Relief

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