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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
Reviewed October 2019

After you get a Summons and Complaint, if you are sued in:

  • District Court or Superior Court you must file an Answer.
  • Small Claims Court you do not have to file an answer but you may want to tell the court your defenses and claims in an Answer.

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.

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

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

In District of Superior Court 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.

 

 

Small claims court

If you are being sued in small claims court, you can still 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 go to court. 

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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