How do I respond to a request for a bill of particulars?
When you receive a request for a bill of particulars, you should first read it over very carefully and then read your complaint or petition. You need to think about what it is that you need to prove to the judge in order to win your case and then explain in more detail the general allegations that you made in your complaint or petition. For example, if you filed a divorce action based on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment, you may have just alleged in your petition that you were “subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment during the marriage.” The request for a bill of particulars may say: “Defendant hereby demands a bill of particulars setting forth the specifics of the alleged cruel and inhuman treatment.” In the bill of particulars that you write up, you will explain exactly what you meant by cruel and inhuman treatment, while keeping in mind what you can prove at trial, and the approximate dates that the incidents happened. For example, you might respond with this level of detail for each incident: “On or about December 28, 2018 at 7:00 pm the Defendant shoved Plaintiff to the ground in the kitchen of their marital home and struck Plaintiff approximately 12 times with closed fists. These blows landed around the head, neck, and shoulder area of the Defendant. The Defendant suffered a broken nose as a result of the blows, along with other physical pain and bruising. Plaintiff estimates the entire attack to have lasted three to five minutes.”
Make sure you are truthful and accurate in your bill of particulars because any inconsistencies between what you include in the bill and testimony that you give in a deposition or trial can be used to damage your credibility and your case. If there are certain incidents that happened for which you cannot recall details and others where you can vividly remember details, you may decide to only include the ones that you know you can testify to.
If a statute controls your case, meaning that the specific things you need to prove to get the relief you are asking for are set out in a state or federal law, then you should read the statute to see if there are certain things that you need to prove; these are called “elements.” You will need to keep the elements of the case in mind as you are expanding on your claims in the bill of particulars. If you do not cover all of the necessary elements, then the judge might dismiss your claim. For example, if you are suing an abusive partner in civil court for money damages because you were harassed, you might sue based on “intentional inflection of emotional distress.” Generally, the elements that you’d need to prove might be that:
- the defendant acted intentionally;
- the conduct was extreme or outrageous;
- this harassment caused severe emotional distress.