The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) outline the processes for court actions in civil cases. Pleadings are documents presented in writing which establish a case file and become a public record, unless sealed for some reason. Those bringing a claim will initially file a claim for relief, which is part of a pleading. A pleading that explains a claim must include the following:
- A simple statement of the basis of the court's jurisdiction, if applicable.
- A simple statement of the claim(s) showing entitlement to relief
- An explanation of the relief and types the plaintiff is seeking
Admissions & Denials
When a pleading is filed by the plaintiff, the defendant(s) will respond to it with a similarly concise statement responding to each claim made. The defendant may admit or deny each claim based on the nature of the claim.
A general denial is when the party denies all the allegations including grounds for jurisdiction. A party may also respond by admitting some claims and denying others. A party may respond stating that they lack the knowledge or that they presently have insufficient information to admit or deny the claims. If a response to the pleading is not required, then the allegations are considered denied or avoided. Your attorney will be a tremendous resource in this phase.
Defenses in Response to Pleadings
If a response is required for a pleading, the party may do so using several different categories of defenses or motions which challenge the validity of the claim. One option is through using a number of affirmative defenses as follows:
- Accord & satisfaction;
- Arbitration & award;
- Assumption of risk;
- Contributory negligence;
- Failure of consideration;
- Injury by fellow servant;
- Res judicata;
- Statute of frauds;
- Statute of limitations;
Format of Pleadings
In the FRCP, there is an explanation regarding the form of pleadings discussed in Rule 10. The nature of the pleading should be listed such as a claim, answer etc. All parties involved in the matter should be listed, including the court.
Each claim or defense should be contained in a separate, numbered paragraph which allows it to be directly referenced in future pleadings. Supplemental or supporting evidence and documentation is called an exhibit. All documents including pleadings, motions etc. must be signed by an attorney of record or by the party presenting the document themselves. All documents should contain a signature, the party's address, email address, and phone number.
Pleadings generally do not require a form of verification for submission, such as an affidavit, unless local rules state otherwise. Courts may strike (not consider) documents that are not signed. If a party recognizes an error or omission quickly, they can usually correct it and proceed. In looking at the process, it is obvious that these civil actions require assistance from an experienced attorney.