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Demur (or demurrer) refers to making a pleading that challenges the sufficiency or adequacy of pleadings of another party. Demurrers typically come in two forms: general and specific.

  • A general demurrer challenges a broader problem with a pleading that affects all of the claims brought, such as improper venue.
  • A specific demurrer objects to a particular problem with the details of a pleading, most commonly the failure to claim sufficient facts for a cause of action.

In ruling on a demurrer, a court accepts the factual assertions of the moving party as true. A demurrer does not challenge the truthfulness of facts in a pleading. If a demurrer is granted by the court, the case may be dismissed or the moving party may be given time to amend the pleading depending on the circumstances. 

Demurrers can only be made in some states that still allow such pleadings like California. The laws of those states will outline what defaults a demurrer can be used for and the procedures for doing so. The federal government and most states replaced the use of demurrers with variations of motions to dismiss. Unlike demurrers, motions to dismiss technically are a motion and may be more limited in scope than a demurrer. Both motions to dismiss and demurrers typically must be brought before an answer is filed to a pleading and can result in a claim being dismissed. However, in states where they still are allowed, a demurrer can be brought before a motion to dismiss, but anything ruled on in a demurrer waives the ability to bring a motion to dismiss on that same point of contention. For more information on federal practice, see this entry on a motion to dismiss.

[Last updated in March of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]