The topic of this article is a brief discussion of the rule of liberal construction of pleadings in the State of California. Note that the term pleading can mean many things including an answer, complaint, motion, petition or any other document filed with the Court for the purpose of seeking relief.
The law in California is that all pleadings shall be liberally constructed with a view to substantial justice between the parties.
Code of Civil Procedure Section 452 states that: “In the construction of a pleading, for the purpose of determining its effect, its allegations must be liberally construed, with a view to substantial justice between the parties.”
Because Section 452 is very clear and unambiguous that all pleadings must be liberally construed, the California Courts have interpreted Section 452 broadly.
A California Court of Appeal has stated that “California is committed to the rule of liberal construction of pleadings, with a view to substantial justice between the parties.”.
And another California Court of Appeal has stated that the label or name given to a petition or cause of action a is not the determining factor rather it is the facts alleged and the remedy sought that determines the true nature of a pleading.
This means that a party who has mislabeled their complaint or motion has the right to expect that a Court will look beyond the label given to the pleading, liberally construe the complaint or motion, and will make their decision based not on the form, but on the substance of the pleading.
In fact another code section, namely California Civil Code Section 3528, states that, “The law respects form less than substance.” That particular code section was first enacted back in 1872 which is certainly proof that the law in California has looked at the substance, not the form of pleadings filed with the Court.
In discussing the policy of liberal construction of pleadings as it relates to complaints, the California Supreme Court has stated that the fact that a plaintiff may have made a mistake as to the nature of their case, or even the legal theory under which they hope to prevail is not important, what is important is whether there it states any valid claim for relief.
The statutory commitment in the State of California to the rule of liberal construction of pleadings should be viewed with favor by a litigant who faces an objection to the alleged sufficiency of their pleading based on an incorrect name, or legal theory. In other words, an objection mostly based on the form, not on the substance.
The author sincerely hopes that you have enjoyed this article.
Copyright 2012 Stan Burman. All rights reserved.