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In law as practiced in countries that follow the English models, a pleading is a formal written statement filed with a court by parties in a civil action, other than a motion. By stating what claims and defenses are at issue, pleadings establish the issues to be decided by the court.

Pleading in England and Wales is covered by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR).

Pleading in United States Federal courts is covered by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Pleading in the courts of the individual states is covered by the rules of civil procedure either promulgated by the respective state Supreme Courts, or by statute by the respective legislatures.


Examples of pleadings

A complaint is the first pleading filed by a plaintiff which initiates a lawsuit. A complaint sets forth the relevant allegations of fact that give rise to one or more legal causes of action along with a prayer for relief and sometimes an ad quod damnum clause. In some situations, a complaint is called a petition, in which case the party filing it is called the petitioner and the other party is the respondent. In equity, sometimes called chancery, the initial pleading may be called either a petition or a bill of complaint in chancery.

A demurrer is a pleading filed by a defendant which objects to the legal sufficiency of a complaint. At common law, the demurrer was the only pleading which in itself required an immediate ruling on its content from the court, and which was capable of immediately disposing of a case, with the inevitable result that demurrer practice came to resemble motion practice. Many common law jurisdictions therefore went to a narrower understanding of pleadings as framing the issues in a case but not being motions in and of themselves, and replaced the demurrer with the motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action or the application to strike out particulars of claim.

An answer is a pleading filed by a defendant which admits or denies the specific allegations set forth in a complaint and constitutes a general appearance by a defendant.

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