The primary purpose of pleadings in Missouri is to provide notice to the other party/parties of the facts and relevant legal claims you are relying upon. A “pleading” typically refers to a document filed in court which pleads facts with respect to the underlying dispute. Pleadings are liberally construed and need only allege ultimate facts — not evidentiary facts. Examples of pleadings include the petition, answer, counterclaim and reply.
In terms of priority/importance, the initial petition by the plaintiff/petitioner and any counterclaim are usually at the top of the list because those often forms the basis for the lawsuit. Functionally and legally, a petition/counterclaim is important because a trial court cannot enter judgment on a cause of action (e.g., breach of contract, trespass, breach of trust) that a plaintiff did not plead. Lonero v. Dillick, 208 S.W.ed 323, 329 (Mo. Ct. App. 2006). Indeed, the purpose of pleadings is to present, define, and isolate the issues so that the trial court and all parties have notice of the issues. The Medve Grp. v. Sombright, 163 S.W.2d 453, 546 (Mo. Ct. App. 2005). It is well settled in Missouri that a party may not plead one state of facts and theory and to the unprepared surprise of his adversary and recover on another or different theory and set of facts. Id. Based on the importance of the pleadings, attorneys will often plead almost anything under the sun to avoid objections that an argument/fact is outside the scope of the pleadings.
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