How to Write a Bill of Particulars

By Joseph Nicholson

In a typical lawsuit, the cause of action by the plaintiff or the defense(s) by the defendant can start out very broad and general. If this is the case, either party can be ordered by the judge, or requested by the other party, to file a Bill of Particulars clarifying the basic facts of a case. The Bill of Procedures in not meant to replace normal discovery but to establish enough information about the foundation of the case to allow each party to conduct their independent investigations. In federal procedure, the Bill of Particulars has been replaced by a Motion for More Definite Statement. States still use the Bill of Particulars, but the exact requirements of form and procedure vary by jurisdiction.

Know the rules. One of the main benefits a lawyer can provide when writing a Bill of Particulars is knowledge of the applicable rules and laws. The rules of civil or criminal procedure in the appropriate jurisdiction will set forth specifics of the format, filing and content of the bill. In some cases, such as a personal injury or other claim for monetary damages, a Bill of Particulars will center on facts. In others, such as a criminal case, the bill might center on raising matters of law to be decided by the court.

Use the case style. As with all motions and pleading filed with the court, a Bill of Particulars should begin with the case style. This contains the name of court and the parties. Also include the case number, and unless otherwise directed, title the document "Bill of Particulars." Refer to the appropriate rules of procedure for guidelines on how cases are styled and titled in your jurisdiction.

Write a short preamble. Immediately following the title, a short preamble should establish whether the bill is being filed by the plaintiff or defendant. The preamble should also include the title and date of the requesting document to which it is filed in response.

Answer questions wherever possible. The request for a Bill of Particulars will contain a series of questions on subjects for which the requesting party is seeking clarification. The answer to each question should not be a long, thorough explanation or narrative but rather as direct, fact-based and concise as possible. In civil cases, the questions are often a simple way to create a record of the agreed-upon facts in a case, such as the date and time of an incident, names of involved or interested parties, or amounts of damages claimed.

Object where necessary. If the questions themselves are too broad or general to be answered concisely, they can be objected to on these grounds. Questions can also be objected to, instead of answered, if they ask for too much information (overly burdensome) or are not relevant to the matter at trial (improper or irrelevant).

Sign and mail. A Bill of Particulars must be signed by the preparer of the document, usually legal counsel, and timely mailed to the appropriate party (either the judge, the clerk of the court or opposing counsel, depending on the rules of the jurisdiction). Copies must usually be provided to be furnished to the other parties and the court.

About the Author

Joseph Nicholson is an independent analyst whose publishing achievements include a cover feature for "Futures Magazine" and a recurring column in the monthly newsletter of a private mint. He received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Florida and is currently attending law school in San Francisco.