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What is a Bill of Particulars and When Can It Be Used?

Written by: Kristy Welsh

Last Updated: October 21, 2017

If you live in a state that allows the use of bill of particulars, you have a potentially powerful tool if you are defending against a lawsuit. A bill of particulars can sometimes be used instead of the discovery process. If you live in a state that allows it, one of the first things you and/or your attorney should do is submit a "Demand for a Bill of Particulars." This is one of the toughest tools you have for defending yourself in court — an opportunity to find out exactly what is alleged against you so you can prepare your defense accordingly. A bill of particulars may be used in either criminal defense or in civil litigation. However, for the purposes here, we will mainly give examples related to defending your self against a debt lawsuit, which is a civil case.

What is a Bill of Particulars?

A bill of particulars is a written statement outlining the reasons a Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a Defendant. It is a detailed, formal, written statement of charges or claims by a Plaintiff or the prosecutor given upon the Defendant's formal request to the court for more detailed information.

What is the Purpose of a Bill of Particulars?

A bill of particulars requests details on everything the Plaintiff states is the meat of the case. This prevents surprises, thus enabling the Defendant to prepare the strongest defense possible. A bill of particulars is also in the best interest of the judicial process overall — the sooner a Plaintiff and Defendant are on the same page about the exact nature of the lawsuit, the more efficiently and effectively the case can move through the system.

How is a Bill of Particulars Different from the Discovery Process?

In the discovery process, the Defendant seeks evidence or strategy by which the Plaintiff will build its case. This is the proof the Plaintiff has against the Defendant. A bill of particulars includes no such proof or strategy, but only a list of reasons the lawsuit has been filed.

Who Can Request a Bill of Particulars?

The Defendant requests it to clarify the case, the Plaintiff cannot request it.

Under What Circumstances Would a Defendant Provide a Bill of Particulars to a Plaintiff?

OK, so there is a situation where the Defendant would be asked for a bill of particulars. If you file a counterclaim, the Plaintiff may request a bill of particulars from you.

What Should You Ask for in a Bill of Particulars?

The nature of the lawsuit determines what should be included in a bill of particulars. For instance, if you are being sued for an unpaid balance on a credit card, your demand for a bill of particulars should request:

  • Agreement and/or contract of the relevant account.
  • Proof the Plaintiff owns the account.
  • List of items for which payment is being sought.
  • List of dates associated with each item, transaction or service.
  • List of charges per item, transaction or service.
  • Means by which the plaintiff determined amount owed and for what.

In What Format Will You Receive the Response Bill of Particulars?

Local court rules determine the format for which a bill of particulars must be prepared and submitted.

How is the Getting the Plaintiff to Answer the Bill of Particulars Enforced?

Once a demand has been received for a bill of particulars, the receiving party should submit it voluntarily. If not, you can file a motion asking the court to force the submission of documentation.

Which States Allow the Use of a Bill of Particulars?

The bill of particulars was abolished in nearly all U.S. court systems in the 1940s and 1950s due to the widespread recognition that much of the information requested could be obtained more efficiently through the discovery process. Today, only a minority of U.S. states, like New York, Illinois, California (CCP 454), and Virginia, use the bill of particulars.

Please note: WE ARE NOT ATTORNEYS. If you are being sued, it's always a good idea to hire an attorney or get some legal assistance. If you cannot afford an attorney, a lot of people have handled their cases pro per or without a lawyer. Our articles are meant to provide basic information on handling litigation.