Pleadings – formal documents setting forth or responding to claims, allegations, denials, defenses, or charges


1. A formal document in which a party to a legal proceeding (especially a civil lawsuit) sets forth or responds to allegations, claims, denials, or defenses. In federal civil procedure, the main pleadings are the plaintiff‘s complaint and the defendant‘s answer. [1]

 1. A formal statement by a party to an action or proceeding of the operative facts, as distinguished from evidentiary facts, which constitute the respective claim or defense. McMillan v Plymouth Electric Light & Power Co. 70 Ind App 336, 123 NE 446

The allegation made by a party to an action or proceeding for the purpose of presenting or joining the issue to be tried and determined, whether such issue is of law or of fact. 41 Am J1st P1 § 2

The science and course of allegation whereby a party in court presents his demand or defense against the demand of the other party to be made a matter of record. Kansas City v O’Connor, 36 Mo App 594, 599. [2]

1. Formal statements by the parties to an action setting forth their claims or defenses.  EXAMPLES of pleadings include: a complaint; a cross-complaint; an answer; a counterclaim.  The various kinds of pleadings and the rules governing them are set forth in detail in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and, with respect to pleading in state courts, by the rules of civil procedure of the several states.  These rules of procedure abolished common law pleading. [3]

Related Terms:

plead – To draft and serve or tile a pleading, particularly a pleading by defendant.  To raise a defense. Farm Bureau Auto. Ins. Co. v Martin, 97 NH 196, 84 A2d 823, 29 ALR2d 811.

burden of pleading – a party’s duty to plead a matter in order for that matter to be heard in the lawsuit. — aka burden of allegation.

pleader – A person who prepares a pleading or plead, ings; a party who files or serves a pleading.

pleading a statute – Formally setting forth the terms of the statute.  Stating the facts which bring the case within the statute, even without taking formal notice or even a mention of the statute itself. Hart v Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. 6 W Va 336, 348.

pleading in haec verba – Pleading a written instrument in the same words as the instrument.

pleading over – Serving or filing an amended pleading after an attack by one’s adversary upon one’s pleading. Pleading to the facts after demurrer overruled. 41 Am J1st Pl § 250.  A pleading by the defendant in a criminal case after the overruling of a plea by him not going to the merits of the case. such as a plea in abatement. 21 Am J2d Crim L § 466.

pleading to the merits – Raising and developing the issues between the parties or bringing forward whatever defenses the defendant may have which he wishes to interpose in bar of the plaintiff’s claim. 41 Am J1st Pl § 131. [2]

Statute of Jeofails – a law permitting a litigant to acknowledge an error in a pleading and correct or amend the pleading without risking dismissal of the claim.

That Which Arises from within Pleadings:

issue – a material point or question arising out of the pleadings in a case, which is disputed by the parties and which they wish the court to decide.

Types of Pleadings:

civil pleadings – for use in civil proceedings (torts).

criminal pleadings – for use in criminal proceedings.

Historical Pleadings Not Included or Replaced within the Federal Rules of Procedure

demurrer – a former type of pleading that has been replaced by the motion to dismiss or via pointing out a substantive defect within the defendant’s answer.

See alternative pleading; amendment of pleading; defective pleading; false pleading; frivolous pleading; judgment on the pleadings; responsive pleading; sham pleading; supplemental pleading. [3]


[1] Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black & Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-62130-6

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations
Third Edition
 by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[4] Sabin D. Puterbaugh, Puteraugh’s Common Law Pleading & Practice 36-37 (3rd ed. 1873) ISBN13: 9781240177844


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