Pleading is a formal written statement of a party’s claim or defence to another party’s claim in a civil action. Civil Procedure Rules govern Pleadings in Uganda.
Odgers Principles of Pleadings and Practice, 20th edition defines Pleadings as: statements in writing, served by each party alternately on his contention will be at the trial, and giving all such detail as his opponent needs to know in order to prepare his case in answer.
The usual Pleading in action are:
- Statement of claim/ Plaint, in which the plaintiff sets out his or her cause of action with necessary Particulars as to his or her injuries and losses.
- A defence, in which the defendant deals with every material fact alleged by the plaintiff in his statement of claim and also states new facts in which he or she intends to reply. A defendant may also set up a cross claim known as a counterclaim.
- A reply in which the plaintiff deals with fresh facts raised by the defendant in his or her defence. A reply is unusual except where the defence sets up a counterclaim.
The points admitted by either side are extracted and distinguished from those in controversy. Other facts on dispute may prove to be immaterial. Litigation is limited to only material facts in dispute.
Pleadings should be conducted so as to evolve clearly defined issues, definite propositions of law and fact asserted by one party and denied by the other but which they both agree to be points on which they wish to court to decide in a suit.
There are advantages achieved after the exchange of Pleadings namely:
- The parties themselves get to know what exactly is in dispute and actually may find that they don’t have such a big misunderstanding.
- The parties get to know what exactly will be brought at the trial and this may save expenses in procuring evidence.
- The mode of trial may be determined from Pleadings which may raise a simple point of law.
- Pleadings help in trial determination of the issues. The successors to the parties do not have to fight over the same issues.
After the first Pleading, namely the Plaint, each part must do more than state his or her case, he must deal with what is presented by his opponent’s case in three ways:
- He or she must deny the whole or some essential parts of avernments of facts contained in the Pleadings. This is what is called traversing an opponent’s allegation and the party will in essence be compelling the other to prove his allegation.
- He or she may confess or plead other facts but argue that it is the plaintiff in default.
- A demurrer: this basically means pleading a point of law. The defendant may plead res judicata, limitation etc particularly the allegation may be traversed or objected to as bad in law or some collateral matter may be raised to destroy the effect of the plaintiff’s pleading.
The case of Reliable Trustees Ltd & 3 others V George F Sebeguya HCCS No 601 of 1992 illustrates and explains how and what pleadings are.