Answering a complaint and summons
By Jenny Harold [January 24th, 2011]
You must answer a complaint in time or you will lose by default. If you need additional help, contact us. Our lawyers can help you prepare a response.
First, it's really not a good idea to write an answer in pen at the court house unless you waited to the last day and have no choice. Better is to type the caption (similar to how your adversary typed his or her complaint) on your PC and then break down your answer into 3 or 4 parts.
You need to answer each numbered question in sequence and generally your answers should be:
b) Denies; or
c) Defendant is without sufficient information.
Generally c) is a good option because you have not committed yourself or given any solid information your adversary can use.
The second part you need is affirmative defenses. If you do not have a good list of them use the following because it will generally cover 90% of all possibilities – and most often in the law, if you do not claim a right you lose it and affirmative defenses represent that claim. List on separate lines the standard affirmative defenses which include:
1) laches, 2) Pari Delicto, 3) unclean hands, 4) failure to state a claim, 5) violation of statute, 6) failure to name all necessary parties, 7) insufficiency or defect of service, 8) lack of jurisdiction, 9) accord and satisfaction, 10) fraud, 11) statute of limitations and/or other time limitations, 12) bad faith acts of omissions and/or negligence, 13) failure to comply with applicable regulations, 14) failure to comply with applicable state or federal law.
The third part, if you have a valid counterclaim or third-party claim, now is the time to make it. In most jurisdictions if you do not do so at the time of your answer, when you generally have the right as a matter of law (check your jurisdiction) – you will not likely get the court to grant permission to you on motion later when your adversary can oppose the motion.