PLEADINGS AND THE PROOF

November 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

“It is the pleading that makes the case for adjudication, and it is the evidence that sustains or defeats it upon the final hearing.”  Terry v. Jones, 44 Miss. 540, 1871 WL 8413 (1871).

Voilà! After 140 years and a sea-change in the rules of Mississippi pleading, that ancient formula holds oh-so true in our courts. The pleadings frame the issues; the evidence admitted at trial determines the outcome.

Put another way: THE PLEADINGS ARE NOT EVIDENCE.

This immutable principle has not only for ages been a bedrock of procedure in Mississippi courts, it has also been the rock that has dashed the case of many an unseasoned or unwary practitioner.

Don’t ever assume because you have pled something that the court will take it as true. On the contrary, without actual evidence in the record, the court can not take it as true, whether it wants to or not.

I have seen lawyers leave key elements of their cases lying on the court room floor simply because they neglected to offer proof thereof. This is a chronic problem when it comes to claims for attorney’s fees, but the problem is not limited to that issue. I see Rule 59 motions more frequently than I’d like where the motion claims I “overlooked” a point, but the attorney concedes that the witness never testified about the matter. I should grant the motion, the lawyer pleads, because it was, after all, in the pleadings.

Here’s the deal: If you don’t include a properly-pled issue in your pleadings, the court can not consider it. BUT, just because it is in your pleadings does not mean it is established; you still have to put on evidence in support of it.

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