Pleadings are a feature of most civil claims. Pleadings are statements of facts. which set out a party’s case. In the High Court, the claimant’s case will be set out in detail in his Statement of Claim. The defendant’s defence will be set out in his Defence. Pleadings may also be embodied in the defendant’s counterclaim and the claimant’s response, as well as certain other documents.
See the separate chapter on Circuit Court practice, in relation to pleadings at Circuit Court level. At District Court level, the requirements for pleadings is significantly less. The Civil Summon sets out a basic statement of the nature of the claim. The general rules of pleading do not apply. There is no requirement to plead a defence. A general Notice of Intention to Defend puts all matters in issue. The amended District Court Rules increase the role of pleadings.
Pleadings should set out the claim and defence in clear terms. The purpose of pleadings is to define with clarity, the matters in dispute (issue) between the parties. They give notice of the contested matters, with respect to which evidence must be given at trial. They enable the trial process to concentrate on the matters which are actually disputed.
The format of pleadings is set out in the Court Rules. They must be divided into paragraphs and numbers. Details of the action and the party’s solicitor must be included. Where counsel has drafted pleadings, which will typically occur in the higher courts, his name will generally appear and he may sign them. Otherwise, the party’s solicitor may sign them.
Requirement for Pleadings
See the sections on the High Court and the Circuit Court, in relation of the time limits in which pleadings are to be delivered. Parties frequently agree extensions to the time for delivery. If the pleadings are not delivered on time, an application may be made for an appropriate order including, for example, a judgment in default of defence, unless pleadings are delivered within a set time limit.
In certain types of claim, the court rules particular details to be given in respect of particular claims. In the case of civil cases, including claims for debt, breach of contract, torts or breach of trust, details of the wrong, injuries and loss suffered together with particulars of damage, must be set out in the claim or counterclaim. If contributory negligence is alleged, it must be particularised, in the same manner as the claimant’s claim.
It is not enough to simply claim a breach of contract or negligence. The basis upon which the duty of care existed and was breached, should be set out. Allegations of fraud, breach of trust, misrepresentation and undue influence must be particularised. For example, the particulars of the nature of the fraud and how it occurred, should be set out. The seriousness of the allegations justify that particulars of the allegation should be made. If the requisite information exceeds a certain length, reference may be made to particulars already given or to be given.
Pleadings must contain a statement in summary form of the material facts, on which the party relies in his claim or defence. It must not set out evidence by which the matters are to be proved. The facts which constitute the basis upon which the law grants a remedy, should be set out. The facts found the claim or so called “cause of action”. Each necessary element of the claim, must be set out in a pleaded facts. Where separate claims are made, each should be separately pleaded. The same principle applies to defences which are based on separate contentions.
If documents are relevant to the claim, the effect of the document may be set out briefly in the pleading, without setting out the entire document. Matters alleged, but not denied in a defence, will be taken as admitted. The denial should not be blanket, but must deal with each alleged fact. Each alleged fact should either be admitted or denied. This general principle is reflected in other rules which require, that particular type of claims or denials (in particular serious claims such as fraud) must be specified in greater detail.
Statement of Claim
The statement of claim is required in plenary proceedings. It may be delivered with the plenary summons or within 21 days of request by a defendant, who has entered an appearance. If the claimant does not deliver his statement within 21 days, the consent of court or the other party is necessary for an extension of time.
If consent is refused, the party concerned may make the application to court for a consent, which should explain the reason for the delay. Such application will be readily allowed in the absence of good reason to the contrary, and accordingly parties will usually grant consents to short and reasonable extensions of time.
The statement of claim sets out the claimant’s claim in detail in accordance with the principles of pleading. The claim must be within the scope of the endorsement of claim on the plenary summons.
The claimant may alter or modify his claim or extent it without amendment, but may not make a new claim under disguise. Where jurisdiction is claimed under the Judgments Regulation, certain statements are required in the claim which certify the basis of the court’s jurisdiction under it.
The statements of claim must set out the relief claim. There may be a claim for damages. It should distinguish between special and general damages. General damages are those which the law will presume to be the natural and proper condiments of the acts pleaded. They arises automatically and is therefore necessary to be proved. Accordingly it may be claimed in general terms.
Special damages are not presumed to arise. They are those which arise in the particular l circumstances of the case. They should be expressly claimed and particularised in the pleadings in the proceedings.
The Statement of claim must specify the relief claimed either alone or in the alternative. This may include damages, injunctions, declarations, appointments for receiver, specific performance, account stated etc. in accordance with the appropriate remedies available in respect of that cause of action at law or in equity.
If a party’s claim / case is unclear from the proceedings, the other party may give Notice for Particulars. The Notice for Particulars requests further and better particulars of the claim or defence. If they are not given voluntarily, a motion may be made to compel a reply. The further particulars should not seek evidence.
The court may grant an order compelling further particulars, where there is a doubt as to the scope of the case against the applicant. Where the case made is clear and the particulars are not really necessary, full particularisation of the claim will not be required. The position would be otherwise if a party may be unfairly disadvantaged or taken by surprise, at trial by matters that are unclear from the pleadings.
Particulars may be sought for further pleading or for the purpose of the trial. They will not be granted for the purpose of the trial, unless they are necessary or desirable for the purpose of a fair hearing.
A party is not entitled to know the evidence against him or the identity of the witnesses to be called. However, there may circumstances where the identity of witnesses may be required in order to enable the opponent to make his case fairly. Generally, the matters on which witnesses are called, are entirely that for the party concerned. If the allegations made are true, then he cannot complain to be taken by surprise by the particular witnesses called.
Particulars may be sought at any time before the trial. However, the application must be made with reasonable expedition and may be denied on the ground of undue delay. The particulars must fall within the scope of the pleadings raised. They cannot vary it. They must clarify it.
Particulars are not generally required to be updated. Where however, new matters arise which could take the opponent by surprise such as to cause unfair prejudice, further particulars should be given or the opposing party should be notified.
Failure to Provide
If a party to proceedings does not provide particulars, his pleadings may be struck out, as an ultimate sanction. An application must be made on motion to the court that the proceedings be struck out. If the application is granted, it may be determinative of the claim.. The court is likely grant further time or impose conditions on foot of such an application and provide a sanction if the order is not complied within a specified time.
See the section on High Court procedure in relation to High Court pleadings. The pleadings are comprised with plenary summons (which sets out brief particulars of claim only), the statement claim, defence and reply.
The defendant who enters an appearance must deliver his defence and counterclaim if any, if he wishes to resist the claim. If he does not request a statement of claim, he must do so within 28 days of appearance. In other cases, he must do so within 28 days of service of the statement of claim.
A defence may be delivered late with the consent of the other party or the court’s consent. The court is likely to consent, at least to a short and reasonable extension of time, unless this would prejudices the claimant.
The defence must set out the defence and/or counterclaim in accordance with the principles of pleading set out above A setoff or counterclaim is a claim arising from the same or related facts such that it should be disposed of in the same proceedings. A counterclaim is effectively a claim by the defendant. The courts will adjudicate for the claim and the counterclaim.
The denials in the Defence must be clear and go to the substance of the matter. An evasive or technical denial of something in terms, which are technically true, but in substance misleading, are prohibited. The denial must not evasive in relation to the substance of the matter.
A defence may involve the denial of the facts alleged by the claimant. It may involve acceptance for the alleged facts and allege the existence of other facts, which may found a defence. The defendant must raise the relevant facts which constitute a defence. For example, a claim may be barred under the Statute of Limitations. There may be illegality, fraud, release, misrepresentation, et cetera. It is not enough, for example, to deny that there is a contract, where reliance is placed on a specific defence which negates it. The defence must be pleaded.
Where a fact is not denied in the defence, it is taken as admitted. This does not apply to a person who is under age or of unsound mind. It is not necessary to deny damages claimed or their amount, as these are deemed disputed unless expressly admitted. As an alternative to a denial, a party may expressly not admit an alleged fact. In this case, the claimant or defendant must prove the relevant fact. A denial may occur by necessary implication from another denial.
If the defendant does not deny critical matters in his defence, it may be possible for the claimant to make an application for judgment, based on the uncontested facts as pleaded.
Specific Defences Pleading
Several defences must be specifically pleaded. They include defences alleging the following
- Statute of Limitations;
- former proceedings;
- rescission ;
- former settlement;
- tender of performance;
- equitable defences;
- settled accounts,
- setoff and counterclaim
The counterclaim is a standalone claim. It may proceed even if the principal claim is dismissed or discontinued. A third party can be added for the purpose of being a defendant of the counterclaim.
A party on whom the counterclaim has been served, typically the claimant, must deliver a reply to the counterclaim unless he admits the claim made. The same principles apply as applied to a defence apply to the reply to the counterclaim.
The court may order on foot of an application, that the counterclaim be dealt with and tried separately. An application may be made by any party to the counterclaims.
The claimant may by reply join issue on the defence and this operates as a denial of allegations in the defence other than those expressly admitted. It’s not necessary to deliver a further reply which denies statements of facts in the defence. If the claimant wishes to plead new matters to defeat a defence, a reply is necessary to set them out.
Where reply is to be delivered, it must be done within 14 days of the defence or delivery of the last defence. The period may be extended by consent or by the court.
The reply may deal only with matters raised by the defence. New issues may not be introduced. Claims of facts inconsistent with those claimed in the statement of claim are not permitted.
In principle, a defendant may issue a rejoinder to a reply. However, this is not generally necessary. The court rules provide that when pleadings are closed, the statements of fact in the last pleading delivered are deemed to be denied and put in issue.
If the claimant does not deliver a reply or the defendant does not delivery or rejoinder within the relevant period, the pleadings are deemed closed. The period may be extended by consent.