As practitioners and readers of this blog are aware, responsive pleadings are foundational documents prepared at the earliest stage of a litigation in which the responding party denies, admits, or states that she lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegation. While the substance of the responsive pleading is dictated by CPLR 3018, the form can (and often does) vary. I’m sure we have all come across answers ranging from those that respond to each numbered allegation, answers where the responding party bundles its denials, admissions, and DKIs into fewer paragraphs, and anything in between.

As of Monday, September 12, 2022, responsive pleadings in the Commercial Division will take on a new form, with an eye toward utility and overall efficiency.

On August 17, 2022, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks promulgated amended Commercial Division Rule 6 (Administrative Order 189/2022), which now includes a brand-new subsection “(d).” Rule 6 (d) will require the responding party to prepare her responsive pleading to interlineate in her response each allegation in the pleading. To wit:

Rule 6. Form of Papers.

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(d)          Interlineation of Responsive Pleadings

(1)          For every responsive pleading, the party preparing the responsive pleading shall interlineate each allegation of the pleading to which it is responding with the party’s response to that allegation, and in doing so, shall preserve the content and numbering of the allegation;

(2)          The party who prepared a pleading to which a responsive pleading is required shall, upon request, promptly provide a copy of its pleading in the same word processing software application in which the pleading was prepared to the party preparing the responsive pleading.

Interlineated responses are not a foreign concept to New York attorneys, as it is standard practice for many practitioners when responding to discovery demands. In preparing responsive pleadings in cases before the Commercial Division, practitioners will now be required to re-state each allegation before responding to it, maintaining both the numbering and the content of the allegation. This applies to every type of responsive pleading, whether it is an answer to a complaint, a reply to counterclaims or cross-claims, or an answer to third-party pleadings.

“Readability” and “utility” were reasons cited by the Commercial Division Advisory Council in advocating for the promulgation of this new rule. The new format enables the Court, the parties, and counsel to review the responsive pleading as a self-contained document (instead of pulling up the pleading and its response and performing a side-by-side review each time). The CDAC envisions the heightened utility of interlineated responsive pleadings to come into play in a number of contexts, including motions directed to the pleadings, disclosure, depositions, summary judgment, and trial prep.

In addition, lest practitioners be concerned about the added cost in both time and money associated with preparing the newly mandated form of responsive pleading, the amendment requires counsel for the pleading party to “promptly” provide a copy of the pleading in a native word processing file upon request.

Finally, it is important to note that amended Rule 6 is meant to affect only the form of responsive pleadings, not the content or substance of responses permitted and/or required by the CPLR and caselaw.

Amended Rule 6(d) is effective as of September 12, 2022.