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Basic Pleadings and Motions in a Civil Lawsuit

Pleadings are formal written documents that are filed with the court. Pleadings are public
documents unless sealed by the court. The court's rules tell you what needs to be included in a
pleading and how it should look. For example, each pleading has to contain the name of the court,
the title of the suit, and the docket number, if one has been assigned.
A lawsuit begins when a plaintif (the party suing) files a complaint against a defendant (the
party being sued.) The complaint is a written statement of the plaintiff's claim or cause of action. In
it, the plaintiff states his or her version of the facts-- what the defendant allegedly did--and asks for
relief or damages.
The answer is the defendant's written response to the complaint. In the answer, the defendant
admits or denies each of the facts contained in the plaintiff's complaint and gives any reasons the
plaintiff should not win. The defendant also pleads any affirmative defense (anything that would
prevent or bar the plaintiff's suit).
The statute of limitations, how long a person has to file a lawsuit, is an example of an affirmative
defense. If the plaintiff's suit was not filed during the time period set by law, the defendant would
plead the affirmative defense of the statute of limitations in his or her answer. If the defendant
failed to plead the statute of limitations, that defense would be waived, meaning the defendant
would not be able to raise the defense later in the suit.
If the defendant believes that he or she is the injured party, he or she files a counterclaim and asks
for damages. For example, if the plaintiff sues you for damages resulting from an automobile
accident, you would file a counterclaim against the plaintiff if you think the plaintiff was the one at
fault in the accident.
Reply to a Counterclaim
If the defendant files a counterclaim, the plaintiff is required to file a reply to the counterclaim.
Amended Pleadings
The court can give either party permission to file an amended pleading.
Pre-Trial Motions
A motion is a written application asking the judge to make a ruling or order on a legal issue.
Motions to dismiss andmotions for summary judgment are two common pre-trial motions. By filing a
motion to dismiss, the defendant requests the court to dismiss the lawsuit because the plaintiff is
not entitled to any legal relief. Either party can file a motion for summary judgment. The motion
requests the court to decide the case on the merits prior to trial because there are no disputed
Motions after Trial
The losing party can file a motion for a new trial, claiming there were legal errors in the trial that
was held. The judge can grant or deny the motion in his or her discretion. The losing party can also
file a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict after the jury returns a verdict.
This motion claims that the evidence does not support the jury's verdict and asks the judge to rule
for the losing party despite the jury's verdict for the other party. The judge has the sole discretion to
grant or deny a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
Pretrial brief:

Statement of facts
Argument and authorities
Signature block
Affidavit and evidence
Let issues be your guide conclusion, explanation, rule, explanation, application, and conclusion
Pre-trial is an answer to the clarion call for the speedy disposition of cases.
pre-trial seeks to achieve the following:
(a) The possibility of an amicable settlement or of a submission to alternative modes of dispute
(b) The simplification of the issues;
(c) The necessity or desirability of amendments to the pleadings;
(d) The possibility of obtaining stipulations or admissions of facts and of documents to avoid
unnecessary proof;
(e) The limitation of the number of witnesses;
(f) The advisability of a preliminary reference of issues to a commissioner;
(g) The propriety of rendering judgment on the pleadings, or summary judgment, or of dismissing
the action should a valid ground therefor be found to exist;
(h) The advisability or necessity of suspending the proceedings; and
(i) such other matters as may aid in the prompt disposition of the action. (Italics supplied)
In light of these objectives, the parties are also required to submit a pre-trial brief, which must
contain the following:
(a) A statement of their willingness to enter into amicable settlement or alternative modes of
dispute resolution, indicating the desired terms thereof;
(b) A summary of admitted facts and proposed stipulation of facts;
(c) The issues to be tried or resolved;
(d) The documents or exhibits to be presented, stating the purpose thereof;
(e) A manifestation of their having availed or their intention to avail themselves of discovery
procedures or referral to commissioners; and
(f) The number and names of the witnesses, and the substance of their respective testimonies.
Formal ofer of evidence:
The formal offer of documentary or object evidence shall be made upon the termination of the
testimony of a partys last witness. This obviously means that this is done when a party rests its
case, and not every time the testimony of each witness is terminated.
The formal offer is made orally in open court, which shows an obvious intent to do away with the
option of filing a written formal offer of evidence allowed under existing rules. A party shall
immediately make an oral offer of evidence of his documentary or object exhibits, piece by piece, in
their chronological order, stating the purpose or purposes for which he offers the particular exhibit.
After each piece of exhibit is offered, the adverse party shall state the legal ground for his
objection, if any, to its admission, and the court shall immediately make its ruling respecting that
Since the documentary or object exhibits form part of the judicial affidavits that describe and
authenticate them, it is sufficient that such exhibits are simply cited by their markings during the
offer of evidence, the objections, and the rulings, dispensing with the description of each exhibit.
Memorandum- An informal record, in the form of a brief written note or outline, of a particular
legal transaction or document for the purpose of aiding the parties in remembering particular points
or for future reference.
Legal memoranda are used in connection with motions, both pre-trial and post-trial. Occasionally,
during trial, the court may ask for a memorandum on a particular legal issue.

A memorandum decision is a written decision, issued by a court, which reports the ruling, and
the decisions and orders of the court. It does not, however, contain an opinion, which is an
explanation of the rationale upon which the decision was based.