In Delaware, as under the federal rules, the function of the pleadings is to give notice,110 and if the allegations of the pleading are sufficient to advise the adversary of the nature of the claim made under the pleading, the pleading is sufficient. If a pleading to which a responsive pleading is permitted is so vague or ambiguous that a party cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading, that party may move for a more definite statement before interposing a responsive pleading. The motion must point out the defects complained of and the details desired. If the motion is granted and the order of the court is not obeyed within ten clays after notice of the order or within such other time as the court may fix, the court may strike the pleading to which the motion was directed or make such other order as the court deems just.111
Motions for a more definite statement are disfavored because of their dilatory nature. Nonetheless, where the pleading is vague or ambiguous, a party may be required to provide a more definite statement so as to allow the court to test the sufficiency of the complaint.112 The test is whether the complaint is so vague and ambiguous that the movant cannot reasonably be required to frame a responsive pleading.113 To withstand a motion for a more definite statement, the pleading must be sufficiently intelligible for the court to make out one or more potentially viable legal theories on which the claimant might proceed. The court must consider whether the pleading satisfies the general rules of pleading as set forth in the Rules of Court. If the pleading is sufficient to give the opposing party fair notice of the nature of the claim, the motion will be denied. In such circumstances, discovery and pre-trial procedure are deemed to be sufficient to protect the movant’s interest in narrowing and clarifying the issues and obtaining the relevant facts.114
A party may not avoid the obligation to provide a more complete statement by stating that the matters complained of are within the knowledge of the moving party.115
110. Mutual Ben. Life Ins. Co. v. Bailey, 190 A.2d 757, 760 (Del. 1963).
111. Ch. Ct. R. 12(e); Super. Ct. Civ. R. 12(e); Comm. Pls. Ct. Civ. R. 12(e); Fam. Ct. Civ. R. 12(e).
112. Helfand v. Gambee, 136 A.2d 558, 562 (Del. Ch. 1957).
113. Nutt v. A.C. & S., Inc., 466 A.2d 18, 23 (Del. Super. 1983), aff’d sub nom. Merganthaler v. Asbestos Corp. of America, 480 A.2d 647 (Del. 1984); Twin Coach Co. v. Chance Vought Aircraft, Inc., 52 Del. 588, 163 A.2d 278, 283 (Del. Super. 1960).
114. Balin v. Amerimar Realty Co., CA. No. 12896, slip op. at 7, Jacobs, V.C. (Del. Ch. Dec. 23, 1993).
115. Helfand v. Gambee, 136 A.2d 558, 562 (Del. Ch. 1957).
© 2010 David L. Finger