This is probably one of the questions we are asked the most.
If you’ve been notified about a lawsuit, you can choose to respond to the summons/complaint, or choose to not respond. The right route for you really depends on the case.
Mind the Deadline
When the person who is suing you — the plaintiff — goes to a civil court to file a complaint against you, the court will send you a written notification. It will contain your deadline to file a response.
Should you receive such a notification, it’s a good idea to consult legal advice from your attorney. They can provide you with advice on what to do, specific to your circumstances, as no two cases are identical.
Prepare to Answer
Know how you’re going to frame your response before the deadline passes. Address any wrongful or inaccurate accusations articulately and factually.
If you prefer to resolve the issue outside of court, you may contact the plaintiff directly at any time. Additionally, you have the option to file a motion to dismiss, but consult with your attorney before doing so.
It’s important that you take the time to file an official response. This way, you protect yourself from a default judgment case.
File the Response in Court
Your response can be filed electronically with your local district or justice court, or you can submit the response in person to the court clerk.
Different submissions might require you pay a filing fee. The cost varies per court. As a general rule of thumb, in district courts, the fee is approximately $223, while it’s around $71 in justice courts. If you’re unable to pay the fee, you have the option to request a fee waiver application.
Note that most of the filing forms — either for answers, motions to dismiss, or waiver applications — can be downloaded online. Be sure to identify the right forms for your needs.
Give a Copy to the Plaintiff
The next course of action is up to you and your lawyer’s discretion, and now you may serve the plaintiff should you choose. Just as you were notified about the lawsuit, it’s a general practice to reciprocate.
Either you or your attorney should send a copy of the response document to the plaintiff or the plaintiff’s attorney.
If you file an answer and a counterclaim, the plaintiff can then respond or file another counterclaim. These procedures will build the case and progress it forward.
Although it’s stressful to face a summons or complaint, neglecting to deal with the situation will do anything but make it disappear.