Pleadings are specific documents filed by the parties in a lawsuit which states the position of the parties in the litigation. Pleadings can be regarded as the backbone of any judicial system.
They are documents which contain the claims and counterclaims of the parties giving the opposing parties an idea of what case they are to answer.
Pleadings contain complaints, answer, counterclaims and reply. A complaint in a civil case is very important in declaring the plaintiff’s facts and stand in the case.
The aim of pleading is to ensure that the issues in the dispute are properly detailed to eliminate further delay or expenses.
WHAT IS A PLEADING?
Pleading can be defined as a formal statement that requests the court to either grant a relief or pass a verdict in a dispute. The plaintiff initiates a lawsuit by filing a complaint while the respondent will file an answer to the claims of the plaintiff. The pleadings are the first documents that the parties file before the court. However, other documents may be added as the trial continues.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE SYSTEM OF PLEADING?
During court proceedings in the early times of England, the judge will sit to hear the parties to a dispute at the court. As the necessity for people to take their cases to the courts established by the Crown increased, so was the need for the recategorization of disputes.
Therefore, the court requested parties to the dispute to submit written details of their position on the matter. Thus, the judicial system was no longer at the reach of a poor and illiterate citizen who could not afford the services of a legal expert. As the system progressed, it was more difficult for most of the requirements preferred by the court to be met.
Thus, the modern court has adopted that pleadings be written to categorize cases into the appropriate courts of jurisdiction. The purposes of pleadings can be summarized as follows:
- Provision of notice for a lawsuit
- Identify the facts that should be settled
- State the facts that are named in the lawsuit
- Pleadings are used in most systems for the classification of the case.
HOW PLEADINGS ARE HELD IN A CIVIL LAWSUIT?
- Pleadings are filed at the beginning of the lawsuit.
- The number of pleadings filed may be many but should be made in a specific manner.
- Each judicial system decides which document is to be filed and when and the format which it must be presented.
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMONLY USED PLEADINGS IN A CIVIL LAWSUIT?
The most commonly used pleadings in a formal court of law includes:
- Complaint: the lawsuit is initiated by filing the complaint. Here the plaintiff who owns the complaint spells out his facts in the dispute and informs the court of what is his prayer.
- Summons: A summons is a document that notifies the person or party that is being dragged to the court. In most cases, the summons is required to contain the reasons for the case and the time required for the defendant to respond to the suit.
- Answer: the response of the defendant in the lawsuit is referred to as an answer. Here, the defendant clearly touches each of the subjects of the case and spells out his version of the facts raised by the plaintiff. Once the complaint reaches the defendant, he has a limited time to respond to it.
- Counterclaim: in a civil court, it is very common that the defendant may be of the argument that he is rather the injured instead of the plaintiff. While the court is waiting to entertain his response on the complaint, he may file a counterclaim which will spell out the faults that the plaintiff has committed for which the defendant is aggrieved.
WHAT ARE OTHER OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS BESIDE PLEADINGS?
Different documents could be admitted during the trial of the case which will state the facts of the dispute. These documents can be categorized into:
- Motions: this is a document that requests that the court should make a ruling even in the lawsuit.
- Discovery: this is a document which is admitted gathering facts and other evidences that are necessary in the case.
WHAT ARE THE VARIOUS TYPES OF DISCOVERY?
Both parties in the lawsuit can use different discovery documents to gather facts and evidence. The courts are not required to be served with these documents but only the opposing sides are to be served. Specific dates are marked for serving and responding to the discovery. However, few of the discover documents in used are:
- Deposition: this is testimonies that are taken under oath for the establishment of outstanding facts. Note that they are administered outside of the court to be used later in the court.
- Interrogatories: these are written questions that are intended for the opposing party to provide the needed questions.
- Request for the submission of documents: this is a demand made in writing to the opposing party to submit certain documents as may be required for the gathering of facts and evidences.
- Inspection demand: this is a request made in writing to the opposing party for the right to inspect an item or place.
WHAT ARE THE PROVISIONS AS TO PLEADING?
The provisions as to pleadings contains its meaning and rules which describes the forms of pleading:
- Plaint: this is the document that contains the plaintiff’s cause of action.
- Written statement: this is the document that contains the reply of the defendant to the facts raised by the plaintiff. It will include facts whereby the defendant intends to raise as legal objections to the claims in the plaint.
Pleadings ensure that each of the parties are provided with equal opportunities in the understanding of the opponent’s case. It allows the parties to learn the facts in the case and to what prove they should present at the trial. By having a foreknowledge of the points that will be raised by the opposite party during the trial, each party will not be taken by surprise as they will be prepared ahead of what will be tendered before them. Pleadings eliminate unnecessary call for evidences that which could be termed irrelevant on admitting the views of the opposing party.
WHAT ARE THE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF PLEADING?
The rules regarding pleadings include:
- Facts are to be stated in pleadings and not law
- The facts and materials facts must be clearly stated
- It is the facts on which the pleading party relies on that must be stated and not the evidence which should be proved.
- Each of the facts must be stated with accuracy and certainty.
- Facts are to be stated and not laws in pleadings: this is the first fundamental rule of pleadings which states that provisions of laws or conclusion of laws or both should not be stated in pleadings. It is the responsibility of the judge to make decisions based on the pleas before the court. It is not the right of the parties to plead that an act was unlawful or that the defendant is guilty of neglecting to act or that the plaintiff is the heir to a certain empire. The facts establishing these pleas must be raised in the pleading and a point of law can be argued by a party before the final judgment is delivered.
However, the exceptions to this fundamental rule of pleading include:
- Legal pleas: a party can make legal pleas especially in a suit barred by principle or limitation which can be described as objections by law.
- Foreign laws: laws of foreign countries which may be relied upon should be regarded first as in any other fact. Foreign laws are not regarded by the court and therefore should be set as facts.
- Customs or usage of trade: where the party wants to rely on them, they should be pleaded like any other facts. If the custom has been adopted as a law, then it should not be pleaded.
- Presumptions: In accordance with the provisions of Order VI rule 13 of C.P.C; no party under a pleading should allege a matter where it has been presumed by law to be in his favor or where the opposing party is to bear the burden of proof except where it has been specifically denied. An example can be seen in a case for the bill of exchange where the lawsuit is initiated only because of the bill and not on the grounds of consideration of the plaint. The consideration must be proved based on the provisions of Section 118 of the Negotiable Instrument Act 1881 which recognizes the fact that a consideration exists.
- the facts and material facts must be clearly stated: this rule states that every pleading should have a statement of material facts for the parties to either lay claims to or defend against. Order VI rule 2 of C.P.C provides that:
- Every pleading shall contain statements in a clear form of the materials on which the party relies for his claims or defense and not the evidence for which they are to prove.
- Every pleading shall be grouped by paragraph and numbered accordingly and each allegation should be presented in a separate paragraph.
- Numbers, sums, and dates shall be presented in both figures and words.
- only the facts on which the pleading party relies on that must be stated and not the evidence which is to be proved: this rule states that every pleading must have its statement clearly spelled out in material form on which the party that is pleading would rely for either defense or claims but must not be for the evidence to be proved. Facta Probanda is the material fact on which a party relies on while facta probantia is the evidence or facts by which the parties are to prove.
- each of the facts must be stated with conciseness and precision: Order VI Rule 4 C.P.C states that where a party relies on misrepresentation, breach of trust, fraud, undue influence of or willful omission of date and any necessary item should be mentioned in the pleading. Conciseness in pleadings can be obtained by:
- Omitting unnecessary facts
- Omitting unnecessary details during the narration of major facts
- Paying adequate attention to the language of the pleading.
Precision in pleadings can be obtained by:
- Writing out the names and places of persons
- Use of pronouns “he” “she” etc should be avoided
- Plaintiff or defendant may not be addressed by their names only.
- A thing should be addressed with a name and given the same description throughout the case.
- Where an act or document is used in the suit, its language should be used.
- ‘If’ or ‘but’ should be avoided in alleged facts
- Complicated sentences should not be used
- Facts description in passive voice should not be used
- Pleadings should be made in paragraphs and each fact must be contained in each.
- There should be no repetition
- All useful documents must be stated clearly.
WHAT ARE THE OTHER RULES OF PLEADING?
The other rules of pleading include:
- Every pleading should be signed by the party.
- Every pleading signed should bear the address of the pleader which shall be called the registered address.
- Every pleading shall be verified by the party
- The court at any time shall order for a pleading to be amended or struck out.
- Where a party fails to amend a pleading pending the time granted by the court, such a party shall not be permitted to make amends any longer except as may be decided by the court.