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Demurrer to complaint in California

Filing a demurrer to a complaint in California is the topic of this blog post. There are two types of demurrers in California, a general demurrer, and a special demurrer.

A general demurrer is made on one of two grounds, failure to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action, and the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. The grounds for a general demurrer are never waived. See Code of Civil Procedure § 430.80.

A special demurrer can be made on any one of several grounds, including uncertainty and lack of capacity to sue. The grounds for a special demurrer are waived unless they are raised by a special demurrer, or listed as affirmative defenses in the answer. Note that special demurrers are not allowed in limited civil cases.

A demurrer can only be used to challenge defects that appear on the face of the complaint, or from matters that can be made the subject of judicial notice.

The California Supreme Court has stated that the failure of the pleading to state a cause of action results from the fact that the complaint appears deficient on the face of the pleading or from judicially noticed matter.  .

A California Court of Appeal has ruled that if a defendant negates any essential element of a particular cause of action, a judge should sustain the demurrer as to that cause of action.

And a California Court of Appeal has stated that a general Demurrer admits the plaintiff’s interpretation of a contract, even if the contract is ambiguous.

A demurrer to a complaint tests only the legal sufficiency of the allegations. It does not test their truth, the plaintiffs’ ability to prove them, or the possible difficulty in making such proof.

The sole issue raised by a general demurrer is whether the facts pleaded state a valid cause of action–not whether they are true. Thus, no matter how unlikely or improbable, plaintiff’s allegations must be accepted as true for the purpose of ruling on the demurrer.  Del E. Webb Corp. v. Structural Materials Co. (1981) 123 Cal.App.3d 593, 604.

It is not necessary that the cause of action be the one intended by plaintiff. The test is whether the complaint states any valid claim entitling plaintiff to relief. Thus, plaintiff may be mistaken as to the nature of the case, or the legal theory on which he or she can prevail. But if the essential facts of some valid cause of action are alleged, the complaint is good against a general demurrer.

Special demurrers for uncertainty are a disfavored ground for a demurrer. A Demurrer for uncertainty will be sustained only where the complaint is so bad that the defendant cannot reasonably respond; i.e., he or she cannot reasonably determine what issues must be admitted or denied, or what counts or claims are directed against him.

And the “uncertainties” must be specified. Where a demurrer is made upon this ground, it must distinctly specify exactly how or why the pleading is uncertain, and where such uncertainty appears by reference to page and line numbers of the complaint.

Even if a demurrer is sustained, leave to amend the complaint is routinely granted. Courts are very liberal in permitting amendments, not only where a complaint is defective in form, but also where substantive defects are apparent: “Liberality in permitting amendment is the rule, if a fair opportunity to correct any defect has not been given.”

It is an abuse of discretion for the court to deny leave to amend where there is any reasonable possibility that plaintiff can state a good cause of action.

The issue of whether or not to file a general demurrer should only be made after legal research on the elements required to state a particular cause of action. If the complaint does not allege all of the required elements then a general demurrer should be filed.

And the issue of whether or not to file a special demurrer should only be made after a careful review of the complaint, as most special demurrers are made on the ground of uncertainty then the moving party should be certain that the complaint is so poorly written that it would not be possible to respond.

Attorneys or parties in California who wish to view a portion of a sample demurrer to a complaint sold by the author please see below.

Attorneys or parties in California who wish to view a portion of a sample opposition to a demurrer sold by the author please see below.


Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California law and motion litigation document package containing over 55 sample documents including both a sample demurrer to a complaint and a sample opposition to a demurrer to a complaint can use the link shown below.

California law and motion litigation document package

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.

Follow the author on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LegalDocsPro

View legal document packages for sale at: http://www.legaldocspro.net

Subscribe to his weekly newsletter with legal tips and tricks for California and Federal litigation. http://www.legaldocspro.net/newsletter.htm

16 Responses

  1. Nice work. Great Blog

  2. You certainly seem to know your stuff!

  3. Hey, you’re alright Stan I can tell by how your program responded to my last name, Ha.

  4. This was incredibly helpful to me! A cross-complaint I filed has been threatened with a demurrer and after reading this post, I feel much more confident. Thanks!

  5. I really need someone to help me to oppose the demurrer filed by the defendant. Can you please help me? I paid a legal service $450.00 to help me file. The legal service filed a whole new complaint, instead of helping me to file an opposition to the demurrer. The judge gave me thirty days to oppose the demurrer. The legal service then had me file a second amended complaint. Obviously, the legal service that I paid did not know what they were doing, according to the Judge in my case. I have to appear before the Judge on May 23rd after filing the wrong thing for the second time. I am so afraid that if I do not get the right information filed my case will be over.

    • I am unable to assist you personally but you can purchase a sample opposition to a demurrer by clicking the link below.

  6. This was really good….

  7. Thanks Stan….very helpful! I’ve been following a civil case in Los Angeles Superior Court..it’s been in litigation for 3 years….It’s been about a year since the demurrer has been appealed……any idea how long a demurrer appeal takes? Is there any way to track the progress of the appeal?…Thank you very much.

  8. Please call me Melinda – 310 8017150

  9. […] File Name : Demurrer to complaint in california | california freelance Source : burmanparalegal.wordpress.com Download : Demurrer to complaint in california | california freelance […]

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