A motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by a plaintiff in California is the topic of this blog post. This post will outline the issues involved for a plaintiff filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings in California.
California Code of Civil Procedure § 438 states in pertinent part that, “A party may move for judgment on the pleadings on the following grounds, if the moving party is a plaintiff, that the complaint states facts sufficient to constitute a cause or causes of action against the defendant and the answer does not state facts sufficient to constitute a defense to the complaint.”
A motion for judgment on the pleadings has the same function as a general demurrer but can be made after the time for demurrer has expired. Except as provided by statute, the rules governing demurrers apply. Note that a motion for judgment on the pleadings may not be made on the grounds of uncertainty or any other ground for special demurrer.
The rules for pleading that are so commonly used in demurrers to complaints are also applicable to motions for judgment on the pleadings directed to a complaint as well as demurrers to answers. Significantly, a pleading must allege facts and not mere conclusions.
In FPI Development, Inc vs. A1 Nakashima, (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 367, 384, the court held that the affirmative defenses pled in an answer to a complaint must be pled in the same fashion, and with the same specificity, as a cause of action in a complaint.
Therefore if the answer consists, as most do, of “boilerplate” affirmative defenses, then filing a motion for judgment on the pleadings is the correct procedure, if the time to file a demurrer to the answer has expired.
Note that California Code of Civil Procedure § 438(e) states that, ” No motion may be made pursuant to this section if a pretrial conference order has been entered pursuant to Section 575, or within 30 days of the date the action is initially set for trial, whichever is later, unless the court otherwise permits.”
Despite the language in California Code of Civil Procedure § 438 regarding time limits, and even though said statute was enacted in 1994, The California Supreme Court and a California Court of Appeal have ruled that a motion for judgment on the pleadings may be made at any time prior to the trial, or at the trial itself.
A very persuasive legal argument can be made to support the conclusion that a motion for judgment on the pleadings may be made at any time as the law is clear that the grounds for a general demurrer are never waived. See California Code of Civil Procedure § 430.80. However, in the author’s experience some judges do adhere to a strict interpretation and will deny a motion for judgment on the pleadings that is not filed within the time limits specified in California Code of Civil Procedure § 438(e).
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The author of this article, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995. If you are in need of assistance with any California or Federal litigation matters, Mr. Burman is available on a freelance basis. Mr. Burman may be contacted by e-mail at DivParalgl@yahoo.com for more information. He accepts payments through PayPal which means that you can pay using most credit or debit cards.
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