This week, I am continuing a survey of the New Jersey Rules of Court relevant to insurance litigation. Our clients often ask how much they can expect to recover in litigation. If someone is being sued, the first question is the potential cost. In New Jersey, the vast majority of litigation starts with a Complaint governed by Rule 4:5-2.
New Jersey is a notice pleading state, which means the Complaint need only provide enough facts to provide a defendant notice of a claim.
Rule 4:5-2 states, in pertinent part:
[A] pleading which sets forth a claim for relief…shall contain a statement of the facts on which the claim is based, showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and a demand for judgment for the relief to which the pleader claims entitlement…If unliquidated money damages are claimed in any court, other than the Special Civil Part, the pleading shall demand damages generally without specifying the amount.
Thus, a plaintiff is not required to state the amount of money sought from the defendant. Rather, through discovery, each side is permitted to develop the necessary facts to determine the amount of money that would fairly compensate the plaintiff. The rule also allows for the fact that, very often in insurance cases, the amount of damages is largely dependant upon expert testimony, which is not often available to either party at the time of the initial pleading.
It should be noted, however, the Rule permits a defendant to demand that the plaintiff provide a statement of damages:
Upon service of a written request by another party, the party filing the pleading shall within 5 days after service thereof furnish the requesting party with a written statement of the amount of damages claimed.
The plaintiff is not bound to the statement of damages, and it is subject to revision as discovery proceeds.
Again, if there are any rules or general procedure you would like me to write about, please leave a comment and I will be happy to address your question.