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In Common-Law Pleading, a denial of the plaintiff's assertions.

For example, a plaintiff could bring a lawsuit in order to collect money that he claimed the defendant owed him. If the defendant answered the plaintiff's claim by stating in answer that she did not fail to pay the money owed on the date it was due, this is a denial of a fact essential to the plaintiff's case. The defendant can be said to traverse the plaintiff's declaration of an outstanding debt, and her plea itself could be called a traverse.

The system of common-law pleading has been replaced throughout the United States by Code Pleading and by rules patterned on the system of pleading in Federal Civil Procedure, but lawyers still use the word traverse for a denial. In some instances, it has taken on specialized meanings for different purposes. For example, in criminal practice, a traverse is a denial of the charges in an indictment that usually has the effect of delaying a trial on the indictment until a later term of the court. A traverse jury is one that hears the claims of the plaintiff and denials of the defendant—a trial jury or petit jury. A traverse hearing may be a pretrial hearing to determine whether the court has authority to hear the case—as when the defendant denies having been properly served with the plaintiff's summons and complaint.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


the formal denial of a fact alleged in the opposite party's pleading.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

TRAVERSE, crim. law practice. This is a technical term, which means to turnover: it is applied to an issue taken upon an indictment for a misdemeanor, and means nothing more than turning over or putting off the trial to a following sessions or assize; it has, perhaps with more propriety, been applied to the denying or taking issue upon an indictment, without reference to the delay of trial. Dick. Sess. 151; Burn's Just. h.t.; 4 Bl. Com. 351.

TRAVERSE, pleading. This term, from the French traverser, signifies to deny or controvert anything which is alleged in the declaration, plea, replication or other pleadings; Lawes' Civ. Plead. 116, 117 there is no real distinction between traverses and denials, they are the same in substance. Willes. R. 224. however, a traverse, in the strict technical meaning, and more ordinary acceptation of the term, signifies a direct denial in formal words, "without this that," &c. Summary of Pleadings, 75; 1 Chit. Pl. 576, n. a.
     2. All issues are traverses, although all traverses cannot be said to be issues, and the difference is this; issues are where one or more facts are affirmed on one side, and directly and merely denied on the other; but special traverses are where the matter asserted by one party is not directly and merely denied or put in issue. by the other, but he alleges some new matter or distinction inconsistent with what is previously stated, and then distinctly excludes the previous statement of his adversary. The new matter so alleged is called the inducement to the traverse, and the exclusion of the previous statement, the traverse itself. Lawes' Civ. Pl. 117. See, in general, 20 Vin. Abr. 339; Com. Dig. Pleader, G; Bac. Abr. Pleas, H; Yelv. R. 147, 8; 1 Saund. 22, n. 2; Gould. on Pl. ell. 7 Bouv. Inst. Index, n. t.
     3. A traverse upon a traverse is one growing out of the same point, or subject matter, as is embraced in a preceding traverse on the other side. Gould on Pl. ch. 7, Sec. 42, n. It is a general rule, that a traverse, well tendered on one side, must be accepted on the other. And hence it follows, as a general rule, that there cannot be a traverse upon a traverse, if the, first traverse is material. The meaning of the rule is, that when one party has tendered a material traverse, the other cannot leave it and tender another of his own to the same point upon the inducement of the first traverse, but must join in that first tendered; otherwise the parties might alternately tender traverses to each other, in unlimited succession, without coming to an issue. Gould on Pl. ch. 7, Sec. 42.
     4. In cases where the first traverse is immaterial, there may be a traverse upon a traverse. Id. ch. 7, Sec. 43. And where the plaintiff might be ousted of some right or liberty the law allows him, there may be a traverse upon a traverse, although the first traverse include what is material. Poph. 101; Mo. 350; Com. Dig. Pleader, G 18; Bac. Abr. Pleas, H 4; Hob. 104, marg.; Cro. Eliz. 99, 418; Gould on Pl. ch. 7, 44.
     5. Traverses may be divided into general traverses, (q.v.) and special traverses. (q.v.) There is a third kind called a common traverse. (q.v.)

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
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