Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

"What are we suing for?" is a question that clients ask all the time. The truth is, the number stated in the complaint, at least in personal injury cases, is pretty much plucked from the air, and it has always been awkward to explain that although the ad damnum clause says "One Million Dollars" (You have to say it like Mike Meyers for it to be funny), their case is actually worth --uh-- quite a bit less. Like, a lot less usually. So comes now the New York State Legislature, which has amended CPLR §§ 3017 and 4016. As amended these statutes now read as follows:

§3017. Demand for relief. (a) Generally. Except as otherwise provided
in subdivision (c) of this section, every complaint, counterclaim,
cross-claim, interpleader complaint, and third-party complaint shall
contain a demand for the relief to which the pleader deems himself
entitled. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be
demanded. Except as provided in section 3215, the court may grant any
type of relief within its jurisdiction appropriate to the proof whether
or not demanded, imposing such terms as may be just.
(b) Declaratory judgment. In an action for a declaratory judgment, the
demand for relief in the complaint shall specify the rights and other
legal relations on which a declaration is requested and state whether
further or consequential relief is or could be claimed and the nature
and extent of any such relief which is claimed.
(c) Personal injury or wrongful death actions. In an action to recover
damages for personal injuries or wrongful death, the complaint,
counterclaim, cross-claim, interpleader complaint, and third-party
complaint shall contain a prayer for general relief but shall not state
the amount of damages to which the pleader deems himself entitled. If
the action is brought in the supreme court, the pleading shall also
state whether or not the amount of damages sought exceeds the
jurisdictional limits of all lower courts which would otherwise have
jurisdiction. Provided, however, that a party against whom an action to
recover damages for personal injuries or wrongful death is brought, may
at any time request a supplemental demand setting forth the total
damages to which the pleader deems himself entitled. A supplemental
demand shall be provided by the party bringing the action within fifteen
days of the request. In the event the supplemental demand is not served
within fifteen days, the court, on motion, may order that it be served.
A supplemental demand served pursuant to this subdivision shall be
treated in all respects as a demand made pursuant to subdivision (a) of
this section.

Rule 4016. Opening and closing statements. (a) Before any evidence is
offered, an attorney for each plaintiff having a separate right, and an
attorney for each defendant having a separate right, may make an opening statement. At the close of all the evidence on the issues tried, an
attorney for each such party may make a closing statement in inverse
order to opening statements.
(b) In any action to recover damages for personal injuries or wrongful
death, the attorney for a party shall be permitted to make reference,
during opening statement and/or during closing statement, to a specific
dollar amount that the attorney believes to be appropriate compensation
for any element of damage that is sought to be recovered in the action.
In the event that an attorney makes such a reference in an action being
tried by a jury, the court shall, upon the request of any party, during
the court`s instructions to the jury at the conclusion of all closing
statements, instruct the jury that:
(1) the attorney`s reference to such specific dollar amount is
permitted as argument;
(2) the attorney`s reference to a specific dollar amount is not
evidence and should not be considered by the jury as evidence; and
(3) the determination of damages is solely for the jury to decide.


I am often critical of tort reform tinkering with our rules of civil procedure , but this seems to me to be quite sensible.

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