Alternative pleading generally refers to the legal practice of putting forth alternative theories of liability in a dispute. Such theories are inconsistent and contradictory and the party presenting them may rely on each one separately as a basis for recovery. There is no requirement that the alternate theories be prioritized or selected in any particular order. Alternative pleadings may also request alternate types of relief from the court.
The practice or alternative pleading may be used in both civil and criminal matters. For example, a person injured in an auto accident may allege negligence by the other driver, and in the alternative, intentional and reckless misconduct. A criminal defendant may plead not guilty, and in the alternative, not guilty by reason of insanity.