What do these numbers (circled) represent before each paragraph? Why are they here?

Complaint reads: "Plaintiff … alleges the following: 1. … 2. … 3. …"; most of the  numbered items (numbers circled by OP) has multiple lines. The side of the page has every line numbered

  • 1
    an example of what you're talking about would be helpful. Numbered paragraphs help identify sections of a document.
    – Tiger Guy
    Feb 20 at 6:45
  • 13
    I don't know about this specific document but these numbers allow to conveniently refer to a specific paragraph. That's the usual reason for enumerating.
    – Roland
    Feb 20 at 7:34
  • 1
    This is not specific to the USA.
    – gerrit
    Feb 21 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


Ideally each individual point should be isolated in its own paragraph with a paragraph number. This is to make it easier to refer to individual points by other parties and the court. It allows you to reply with simple statements such as "The defendant rejects the plaintiff's claim in paragraph 1" or "In response to paragraph 1, [...]" instead of having to paraphrase or quote particular chunks of text that you want to refer to.

It also makes hearings more efficient. When you want to bring a court's attention to a particular point, you can simply refer them to "paragraph X of document Y". Without well-isolated individual paragraphs with numbers, you would have to pause to count what is on the page and then say something like "The fourth sentence of the 7th paragraph on the 5th page of the witness statement" and then wait while the judge or the other party takes the time to locate the correct portion of text.

In , and probably in many other jurisdictions, it is also required by court rules. See CPR PD 5A.2.2:

2.2 Every document prepared by a party for filing or use at the Court must – [...] (5) be divided into numbered paragraphs, [...]

  • 2
    Exactly. As an even more extreme example, patent applications will not only have each claim numbered, but also (in the U.S., at least) have individual line numbers in the detailed description, for exactly this use case of being able to quickly and unambiguously reference a particular portion of the text (e.g. in Office Actions, responses to those, lawsuits arising from the patent, references from future patent applications, etc.) The figures and particular elements of them are also numbered for the same reason.
    – reirab
    Feb 20 at 16:20
  • @JBently Also, what do the numbers 1-28 means in the leftmost column? Thanks. Feb 20 at 16:40
  • 3
    @HelloDarkWorld Those are line numbers, as reirab described in the comment immediately prececing yours.
    – FeRD
    Feb 20 at 17:18
  • 1
    @HelloDarkWorld Line numbers are jurisdiction specific. For example, they are required in court filings in California, but not in Colorado.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 20 at 22:56
  • 1
    If you read a sample answer to a complaint, the reason for the numbered paragraphs in the complaint becomes obvious. pubintlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/…
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 20 at 22:58

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