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What do I do about a Summons and Complaint?

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Created June 2012

If you are served a Summons and Complaint, the first thing to do is file an Answer:

  • If you are being sued in District Court or Superior Court you must file an “answer”.
  • You do not have to file an answer in small claims court.

Your Answer

An Answer is your written statement that tells your side of the story. Your answer explains:

  • what is wrong in the complaint and why, and
  • things the plaintiff did that hurt you/were wrong.

These explanations in your answer are called "defenses and counterclaims." You might include in your answer:

  • Why you do not owe the money the plaintiff claims,
  • Why you do not owe as much money as the plaintiff claims,
  • the laws the plaintiff broke.

To see more defenses and counterclaims, see What defenses and counterclaims could I have?

If you do not file an answer, a “judgment by default” could be entered against you. The plaintiff or creditor will win the case, just because you did not file an answer.

Use our online interview that asks you questions. You will get an ;Answer that you can save on your computer, print and take to court.

 

Small claims court

If you are being sued in small claims court, it is still smart to file an answer.

If you do not file an answer you can still go to court on the date and time in the summons. You can tell the judge or magistrate your defenses.

If you do not go to court on the date and time listed, a “judgment by default” will be entered against you. The plaintiff, or creditor, will win the case, just because you did not file an answer. 

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