The Pleadings Stage of a Case


Pleadings are certain formal documents filed with the court.  Pleadings state basic positions of the parties in a lawsuit.  Common pre-trial pleadings include complaint, answer, reply and counterclaim.

The most important pleading in a civil case is “complaint” which sets out the plaintiff’s version of the facts, specifying the damages.  A complaint frames the issues of a case.  It includes distinct statements of the plaintiff’s cause of action referred to as “counts.”  Counts in a complaint highlight the factual and legal basis of a suit.

Answer is a statement by the defendant explaining why the plaintiff should not prevail.  Moreover, an answer may offer additional facts, or plead an excuse.  Any party in the case may file a reply to new allegations raised in pleadings.

The defendant may also file a counterclaim asserting that the plaintiff has injured the defendant and should pay damages.  The counterclaim may be filed separately or as part of the answer.  However, the plaintiff must be given the opportunity to respond by filing a reply to the counterclaim.