Understanding The Pleadings In Your Medical Malpractice Case: The Bill Of Particulars


Like most states, in New York a lawsuit is commenced via summons and complaint. The summons is the document placing the defendant or defendants on notice of the lawsuit, and requires them to appear within a certain amount of time to respond to the allegations. The complaint is the document setting forth the allegations of the plaintiff’s claim, and demands relief for the damages in the claim.

There are no claims or facts in a summons. A complaint does not need to be very specific, and is just required to set forth the general allegations sufficient enough to put the defendant or defendants on notice, and to establish a cognizable cause of action permitted by New York law. But this does not necessarily allege the nitty-gritty allegations, such as the injuries, exact causes of negligence, and related specifications.

Enter the bill of particulars. This is another pleading that is demanded by the defendant when the defendant responds to the complaint in an answer. The bill of particulars is an amplification of the complaint, and further details the injuries, damages, and claims of the plaintiff. Under the civil practice law and rules (known as the CPLR), there are certain facts that the bill of particulars may have to further explain, including the following under CPLR R. 3043 (a):

  • the date and approximate time of day of the occurrence;
  • the approximate location of the occurrence;
  • a general statement of the acts or omissions constituting the negligence claimed by the plaintiff against the defendant or defendants;
  • if notice if a prerequisite (not common in medical malpractice cases), whether it is actual or constructive notice;
  • if actual notice if claimed (not common in medical malpractice cases), when and to whom it was made;
  • a statement of the injuries where are claimed to be permanent;
  • the length of time the plaintiff was confined to bed and to the house;
  • the length of time the plaintiff was incapacitated from employment; and
  • total amount of special damages claimed for medical expenses, loss of earnings, hospital expenses, nurses’ services, and the name and address of the employers.

Additionally, the defendant or defendants may also request other information related to the claims in the complaint and permitted by the CPLR or common law.

But what do you think? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at jfisher@fishermalpracticelaw.com. You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.