A pleading is the name given to the formal court documents parties file with the court before a case, outlining their claim or their defence. The purpose of the pleadings is to make it clear to the court and the other parties what is alleged to have taken place to give rise to the claim and whether there are facts upon which a defence can be made out. Below, we set out the function of pleadings and what they contain.
What is the Purpose of Pleadings?
Importantly, pleadings present all allegations of fact that are relevant to the case and which parties will need to prove if the matter runs to a trial. It is not the role of pleadings to contain all of the evidence which a party will rely on to prove their claim or defence. For example, if I take action against a customer who didn’t pay me for work I performed, I would need to plead:
- That I was requested/hired to do some particular work for a particular fee and the manner in which that request was made (i.e. orally or in writing);
- That I did the work;
- That I requested/demanded payment (perhaps in the form of an invoice); and
- That payment has not been forthcoming.
It is not necessary for me to set out all of the evidence which proves my claim, namely that other workers can confirm I did the work or that the person who hired me said, “thank you”. The proper place for evidence of that nature is either in an affidavit or the witness box at a trial.
If a statement of claim does not contain all of the facts necessary to prove the claim, or if a notice of defence does not include the facts necessary to raise a proper defence – then the court can strike it out. A court which strikes out a pleading may either give the party that prepared it a chance to amend so that its pleading raises all necessary matters or may alternatively give judgment in favour of the other party.
Other reasons that a pleading (or part of it) may be struck out are that it contains allegations which are unclear, scandalous or irrelevant to the case. Where part of a pleading is struck out, it may be the case that the remainder is sufficient for the matter.
Parties must appropriately particularise their allegations – this is where things get slightly complicated. If you want to allege that a contract was formed between two parties, then you will need to specify whether the contract was oral or in writing, the date it was formed, who exactly made the agreement and what the terms of the agreement were.
If the agreement was in writing, you will need to specify whether you are in possession of the document (or a copy of it), or if not, who is in possession of the document. If you don’t know the document’s location, you will need to explain this sufficiently. This is important so that the court and the other party can properly examine and/or defend all allegations.
What Relief Does a Party Seek?
Ultimately, evidence given by affidavit, in person at the trial or from the relevant agreed documents will go to proving the allegations of fact. Until then, the pleadings define the parameters of the case.
The final part of a pleading is to inform the court and the other parties the relief or remedies sought. This is formally known as the “Prayer for Relief” and is usually introduced by words such as, “The Plaintiff claims the following relief…”
Returning to my example above, the relief I would seek would be as follows:
- Damages in the amount of the agreed fee for work;
- Interest on the fees owing;
- My court costs and legal fees; and
- Such other order as the court deems fit.
You can read more about the remedies available for breach of contract in our other articles.
If you need assistance drafting a pleading or have any questions about your dispute, get in touch with our dispute team on 1300 544 755.