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Code of Civil Procedure section 452 and liberal construction of pleadings

Code of Civil Procedure section 452 and liberal construction of pleadings in California is the topic of this blog post which will briefly discuss the policy of liberal construction of pleadings. The term pleading can mean many things including an answer, complaint, motion, petition or other document filed with the Court for the purpose of seeking relief.

The law in California is that all pleadings shall be liberally constructed with a view to substantial justice between the parties.

Code of Civil Procedure § 452 states that:  “In the construction of a pleading, for the purpose of determining its effect, its allegations must be liberally construed, with a view to substantial justice between the parties.”

The California Courts have interpreted section 452 broadly.

A California Court of Appeal has stated that “California is committed to the rule of liberal construction of pleadings, with a view to substantial justice between the parties.”  Simons v. Kern County (1965) 234 Cal.App.2d 362, 367. (Internal citations omitted).

And another California Court of Appeal has stated that the label or name given to petition or cause of action a is not determinative, rather it is the facts alleged and the remedy sought that determines the true nature of a pleading.

The true nature of a petition or cause of action is based on the facts alleged and remedy sought in that pleading and, as a result, the label given a petition, action or other pleading is not determinative.  Escamilla v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 498, 511.

In discussing the policy of liberal construction as it relates to complaints, the California Supreme Court has stated that the fact that a plaintiff may have made a mistake as to the nature of their case, or even the legal theory under which they hope to prevail is not important, what is important is whether there it states any valid claim for relief.

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. Quelimane Co. v. Stewart Title Guaranty Co. (1998) 19 Cal.4th 26, 38-39.

The fact that California is committed to the rule of liberal construction of pleadings is very good news for a litigant who faces an objection to the alleged sufficiency of their pleading based on an incorrect name, or legal theory.

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The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.

Visit his website at http://www.legaldocspro.com

If you enjoy this blog post, tell others about it. They can subscribe to the author’s weekly California legal newsletter by visiting the following link: http://www.legaldocspro.net/newsletter.htm

Copyright 2012 Stan Burman. All rights reserved.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

These materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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