What Level of Detail Is Appropriate and Necessary to Include Within a Lawsuit Document?

A Pleading Document Should Contain Only the Material Facts. Material Facts Are the Details Necessary to Understanding the Legal Issues Raised or Necessary to Understanding the Response to Legal Issues Raised. Avoid Making Character Attacks or Stating Irrelevant Details Within a Pleading Document.

Understanding the Requirement to Plead Material Facts Including the Consequences For Failure to Properly Do So

Lawsuit Document The details stated within a lawsuit document, being either a claim or defence, must proper accord with court rules. Details within a lawsuit document may be improper if irrelevant, if scandalous, if embarrassingly containing details that shine a poor light on other persons, or if inherently unprovable.  Improper allegations should be struck out and removed figuratively or even literally.

The Law

Both the Rules of the Small Claims Court, O. Reg. 258/98 as well as the Rules of the Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 194, provide rules addressing the level of detail required within a proper lawsuit document.  Specifically, the Rules of the Small Claims Court and the Rules of the Civil Procedure state:

7.01 (2) The following requirements apply to the claim:

1. It shall contain the following information, in concise and non-technical language:

...

ii. The nature of the claim, with reasonable certainty and detail, including the date, place and nature of the occurrences on which the claim is based.

9.02 (1) The following requirements apply to the defence:

1. It shall contain the following information:

i. The reasons why the defendant disputes the plaintiff’s claim, expressed in concise non-technical language with a reasonable amount of detail.

25.06 (1) Every pleading shall contain a concise statement of the material facts on which the party relies for the claim or defence, but not the evidence by which those facts are to be proved.

As per the various rules of procedure provided above, pleading documents, whether as claims or defences, are to provide a concise stating of the material facts.  What constitutes as a material fact, and restrictions on the manner in which a material fact should be pleaded were explained in the case of Stedfasts Inc. v. Dynacare Laboratories, 2020 ONSC 8008, wherein it was said:

[30]  Material facts include facts that the party pleading is entitled to prove at trial, and at trial, anything that affects the determination of the party’s rights can be proved; accordingly, material facts includes facts that can have an effect on the determination of a party’s rights.[6] A fact that is not provable at the trial or that is incapable of affecting the outcome is immaterial and ought not to be pleaded.[7] A pleading of fact will be struck if it cannot be the basis of a claim or defence and is designed solely for the purposes of atmosphere or to cast the opposing party in a bad light.[8] As described by Riddell J. in Duryea v. Kaufman,[9] such a plea is said to be “embarrassing”.

[31]  “Material” facts include facts that establish the constituent elements of the claim or defence.[10] The causes of action must be clearly identifiable from the facts pleaded and must be supported by facts that are material.[11]

[32]  A pleading shall contain material facts, but it should not contain the evidence by which those facts are to be proved.[12] Pleadings of evidence may be struck out.[13] The prohibition against pleading evidence is designed to restrain the pleading of facts that are subordinate and that merely tend toward proving the truth of the material facts.[14]

As explained in the Stedfasts case, which was a case within the full Superior Court, the pleading of evidence, meaning the details explaining how material facts will be proven is considered inappropriate and unnecessary micro detail and is expressly prohibited by the Rules of the Civil Procedure.  More simply said, stating material facts is proper; however, stating details about the evidence will be used to prove a material fact is improper.  Interestingly, the Rules of the Small Claims Court are silent about pleading evidence, meaning lacking a prohibition against pleading evidence; however, pleading of evidence does, generally, remain improper. Additionally, in the rare circumstance where a Small Claims Court case becomes transferred to the full Superior Court, if the Small Claims Court pleading document contains pleadings of evidence, and thereby offending to the Rules of Civil Procedure, problems may arise.

Summary Comment

The rules of pleading should be carefully adhered to.  Pleadings, whether as a claim document or as a defence document, should contain only material facts without stooping to using a pleading document to engage in character attacks or for making prejudicial statements.  Only statements that are relevant should be contained within a pleading.

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