Writing a Complaint – Statement of the Case
FOUNDER’S NOTE: Normally, two lawsuits instead of one would be filed in the case being used as an example in these lessons: the first action for declaration of default judgment, and the second action for damages. However, I wanted to give the defendant an opportunity to simply do their jobs and mitigate the damages by settling the whole matter without trial. We’ll see. This judicial district is very corrupt, and so far have always done the wrong thing.
Now that we’ve completed the PARTIES section and JURISDICTION AND VENUE section of your complaint, it’s time to plead our facts. It’s time to tell the judge and the jury what the facts are that entitle us to the relief that we will request in the last section of the complaint. We’ll do that in the “STATEMENT OF THE CASE” section.
“Just the facts,” as Sergeant Joe Friday used to say on that old show, Dragnet. It is important that you put aside your emotions here, and stick to just the facts, and only the facts that you need to plead to win.
This is hard to do. I know firsthand! I used to think that it was important to tell the whole story so the judge and jury could make appropriate decisions. Now, I know that I only have to allege and prove the “essential fact elements” of the violations of my rights (or misconduct or other offenses) that caused injury to me (and to my children and the citizens of Le Sueur County in the present case).
This is the real beauty of a civil action: plaintiffs only have to prove that the “preponderance” (greater weight) of evidence is on their side – that their claims more likely occurred than not. And if the defendants, or their attorneys, know – or find out during “discovery” – that you are going to win, they would be smart to settle, to avoid a verdict, and a possible punitive award, against them by a disgusted jury who, in addition to hearing all the terrible details of the defendants actions, then discovered that the defendants knew all along that they were going to lose and were willing to take a chance at trial.
You will learn how to allege the essential fact elements of each “cause of action” in the next lesson.
In the STATEMENT OF THE CASE section, we want to allege the facts in some detail, but just enough facts to provide “a short and plain statement of [our] claims showing that [we are] entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). And, we should state our claims (allege our facts) “in numbered paragraphs, each limited as far as practicable to a single set of circumstances.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 10(b).
Practice writing short and concise sentences alleging your facts.
Normally, the Statement of the Case would have ended at paragraph 16. I added paragraphs 17-24 to show the jury, if this case goes to trial, some of the extra work and harm caused.
Most of us – including me when I wrote my first few court documents – tend to over do it in the Statement of the Case section. You will soon learn that there is no need for flowery language or Latin or excessive legalese in your court documents. When you see how a cause of action is alleged in the next lesson, you will begin to see which facts are necessary, or “essential,” and which are designed to fill in the gaps and solidify your case.
Try to write simple sentences like the one in paragraph #12. And remember, you can put as many sentences in a paragraph as you want to allege all the facts of a particular circumstance, as I did in paragraph #10.
In Lesson #7, you will learn how to allege your “causes of action.”