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alternative pleading

n. a pleading that alleges facts so separate that it is difficult to determine which facts the person intends to rely on [syn: pleading in the alternative]

Alternative pleading

Alternative pleading permits a party in a court action to argue multiple possibilities that may be mutually exclusive by making use of legal fiction.

A pleading in the alternative sets forth multiple claims or defenses either hypothetically or alternatively, such that if one of the claims or defenses are held invalid or insufficient, the other claims or defenses should still have to be answered.

One example, submitting an injury complaint alleging that the harm to the defendant caused by the plaintiff was so outrageous that it must have either been intended as a malicious attack or, if not, must have been due to gross negligence.

At a late 1970s American Bar Association seminar in New York, Richard "Racehorse" Haynes gave this example: "Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you. Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn't bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don't believe you really got bit. And fourth, I don't have a dog." Normally such arguments would seem to cancel each other on their face, however, legally "even if" and "anyway" clauses need not be argued; mutually exclusive defenses can be advanced without excuses for their relationship to each other. Of course jurists might be influenced by dual defenses such as "my dog was tied up" and "I don't have a dog", but this must be weighed against the fact that defenses may not be allowed if they are introduced too late.