Litigation: Answering the Complaint, Bringing the Counterclaims, and Responding to the Complaint
Answering the Complaint and Bringing the Counterclaims:
The next step in the process of litigation is the Answer. The Answer is another of the legal documents that falls under the pleading category. The Defendant has Thirty (30) days from personal receipt of the Summons and Complaint in which to file its responsive document at the Courthouse and serve it upon the Plaintiff via first class mail. The Defendant is entitled by law to extend this period for another Thirty (30) days or Sixty (60) days total. The Answer is the opportunity for the Defendant(s) to respond to the allegations set forth in the Plaintiff's Complaint as well as to raise any applicable defenses to the suit which the Defendant may have.
Responding to the Complaint:
As we discussed before, the Complaint contains numbered paragraphs which set forth the Plaintiff's version of the facts. The Defendant is required to either admit or deny the allegations in each paragraph. This is important, as all allegations which are admitted or not expressly denied in the Answer are treated as true for purposes of the litigation. Attorneys refer to these facts as judicial admissions. The effect of one of these judicial admissions is that they may not be contested later in the litigation process. Therefore, if a party wants to later argue facts which are contrary to those established by the judicial admissions, they will be forbidden from doing so by the Court. Furthermore, things which are judicially admitted do not have to be proven during litigation, making the opposing party's job that much easier. For these reasons, it is very important to be careful when deciding how to respond to the allegations of the Complaint.
While the Rules require the Defendant to either admit or deny the allegations in the Complaint, they do allow for more specific manners of pleading. A Defendant can admit or deny outright these assertions. However, if the Defendant thinks that the way certain things are described in the Complaint are not entirely accurate, the Defendant may admit part of a single Paragraph, and deny the rest. Finally, if the Defendant does not have knowledge required to respond to certain allegations, the Defendant may say so. If the Defendant responds that she lacks sufficient knowledge of the matters in the Complaint, those matters are treated as denied for purposes of the litigation. All matters denied in the initial stages of litigation are treated as disputed, and thus must be proven as required by the Rules.
Next in our Introduction Litigation series: Litigation: Raising Applicable Defenses