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Last updated March 22, 2009

Your Answer To The Complaint

Generally the answer must be filed with the court within 20 days after you have been served with the complaint. If the plaintiff sent you a request to waive formal service, and you agreed to accept service by mail (no reason to refuse actually), you then have 60 days from the date the request was sent within which to answer. You may ask for an extension of time in which to respond. Contact the attorney for the other side to request it. If you file a pre-answer F.R.C.P. 12 motion to dismiss the complaint but do not prevail, you have 10 days after the court denies the motion in which to file the answer.

It's been our habit to number all paragraphs in a filing. It's a lot easier for the other party to answer by numbered paragraphs. However, that isn't necessary. A properly constructed complaint will number the allegations made against you. When you answer you answer each and every one of these numbered paragraphs. Answer every allegation. You must deny any and all allegations made against you one at a time.

Many times you cannot answer the claim made because it does not require an answer. It may simple be a statement not requiring an answer. Answer it anyway. That way nothing gets missed. You may raise affirmative defenses if you have them but make sure you state them in greater detail and attach evidence for them if you have it. Affirmative defenses must be raised at this time or they are lost.

Your answer should address the jurisdictional issued raised in the complaint. If you do not agree with the jurisdictional claims, say so, stating why. That preserves the issue for later motions. Failure to address this issue, or any other issue, is an acceptance of their claims.

And you may make counterclaims, numbering the paragraphs like in the complaint. When you make your counterclaims you cite what they did wrong and what federal and/or state statutes they violated. You don't just say they did you wrong and should be punished for it. If the counterclaim is one which the defendant is required to plead, it is called a compulsory counterclaim. If it is one which the defendant has the option of pleading or not, it is called a permissive counterclaim. A counterclaim is compulsory if it "arises out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the [plaintiff's] claim...." FRCP 13(a). Failure of the defendant to make a compulsory counterclaim bars him/her from making that claim later. Do not overlook any counterclaims.

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