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July 25, 2011


A pleading which sets forth a claim for relief, whether an original claim, counterclaim, cross-claim, or third-party claim, shall contain: (1) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (2) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks. Relief in the alternative or of several different types may be demanded.


A party shall state in short and plain terms his or her defenses to each claim asserted and shall admit or deny the averments upon which the adverse party relies. If the party is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of an averment, he or she shall so state and this will have the effect of a denial. Denials shall fairly meet the substance of the averments denied. When a pleader intends in good faith to deny only a part or a qualification of an averment, the pleader shall specify so much of it as is true and material and shall deny only the remainder. Unless the pleader intends in good faith to controvert all the averments of the preceding pleading, the pleader may make denials as specific denials of designated averments or paragraphs, or may generally deny all the averments except such designated averments or paragraphs as he or she expressly admits; but, when the pleader does so intend to controvert all its averments, he or she may do so by general denial subject to the obligations set forth in Rule 11.


In pleading to a preceding pleading, a party shall set forth affirmatively facts in short and plain terms relied upon to constitute accord and satisfaction, arbitration and award, express assumption of risk, comparative fault (including the identity or description of any other alleged tortfeasors), discharge in bankruptcy, duress, estoppel, failure of consideration, fraud, illegality, laches, license, payment, release, res judicata, statute of frauds, statute of limitations, statute of repose, waiver, workers’ compensation immunity, and any other matter constituting an affirmative defense. When a party has mistakenly designated a defense as a counterclaim or a counterclaim as a defense, the court, if justice so requires, shall treat the pleading as if there had been a proper designation.

[As amended by order adopted January 28, 1993, effective July 1, 1993; amended by order entered January 28, 2000, effective July 1, 2000.Amended by order entered December 29, 2005, effective July 1, 2006.]


Averments in a pleading to which no responsive pleading is required or permitted shall be taken as denied or avoided. Averments in a pleading to which a responsive pleading is required are admitted when not denied in the responsive pleading, except that the following allegations must be proved:

(1) Those against a person under any disability;

(2) Those against executors or administrators;

(3) Those necessary to sustain an action for divorce or annulment;

(4) Those against persons whose names and residences are unknown, where there has been no attachment of property.

(5) Those against persons whose parental rights are sought to be terminated.


(1) Each averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise and direct. No technical forms of pleading or motions are required. Every pleading stating a claim or defense relying upon the violation of a statute shall, in a separate count or paragraph, either specifically refer to the statute or state all of the facts necessary to constitute such breach so that the other party can be duly apprised of the statutory violation charged. The substance of any ordinance or regulation relied upon for claim or defense shall be stated in a separate count or paragraph and the ordinance or regulation shall be clearly identified. The manner in which violation of any statute, ordinance or regulation is claimed shall be set forth.

(2) A party may set forth two (2) or more statements of a claim or defense alternately or hypothetically. When two (2) or more statements are made in the alternative and one (1) of them if made independently would be sufficient, the pleading is not made insufficient by the insufficiency of one or more of the alternative statements. A party may also state as many separate claims or defenses as he or she has, regardless of consistency.


All pleadings shall be so construed as to do substantial justice.

Advisory Commission Comments.

8.01: Rule 8.01 provides that a pleading that sets forth a claim for relief must contain a short and plain statement of the claim and a demand for judgment for the relief sought. The rule also authorizes demands for alternative or different types of relief.

8.02: Rule 8.02 provides for the filing of the answer, which sets forth defenses to each claim asserted and which admits or denies the averments upon which the adverse party relies. If the defendant intends to controvert every averment of the complaint, the defendant may do so by a general denial, but the signature of the defendant’s attorney, as required by Rule 11, is the certificate of the attorney that there is good ground to support the pleading; general denials under these circumstances should be rare.

8.03: Rule 8.03 lists affirmative defenses which must be raised in a pleading to a preceding pleading. The rule provides that the party relying upon a matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense must set forth the facts constituting such defenses in short and plain terms, just as under Rule 8.02 the party must set forth express denials of claims asserted by the adverse party.

8.04: Rule 8.04 adopts the general principle that averments in a pleading to which a responsive pleading is required are admitted when not denied in the responsive pleading. Four special cases involving subject matter or persons which might make the general rule oppressive are excepted from the operation of the Rule.

8.05: Rule 8.05(1) sets out the requirements for stating a claim or defense based upon a statute, ordinance or regulation. Rule 8.05(2) allows the statement of all the claims or defenses a party has, and expressly permits inconsistent pleading.

Advisory Commission Comments [1993]. “Comparative fault” is substituted for “contributory negligence” in light of McIntyre v. Balentine, 833 S.W.2d 52 (Tenn. 1992). Note that the defendant must identify or describe other alleged tortfeasors who should share fault, or else the defendant normally would be barred from shifting blame to others at trial.

Advisory Commission Comments [1998]. Perez v. McConkey, 872 S.W.2d 897 (Tenn. 1994), transformed implied assumption of risk from an absolute defense to a criterion position within comparative fault analysis. Contractual express assumption remains as a complete defense to liability.

Advisory Commission Comment [2000]. The former defense of injury by fellow servant was abolished by Glass v. City of Chattanooga, 858 S.W.2d 312 (Tenn. 1993).

Advisory Commission Comments [2004]. Because of the prevalence of long arm statutes providing personal jurisdiction over nonresidents, the amendment deletes the requirement of a prima facie case when the nonresident defendant fails to deny an allegation in the complaint.

Advisory Commission Comment [2006]. The affirmative defenses of statute of repose and workers’ compensation immunity are added to the list in Rule 8.03.

Advisory Commission Comment [2009].

8.04: Even without denial of averments in an answer, allegations in a complaint must be proved in actions to terminate parental rights.

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