Answering a Case

If you got a summons and complaint, you only have a short time to deliver a written Answer form to the plaintiff and the Court. Your Answer is what you tell the court about what the plaintiff said in the complaint. The Answer tells the court your defenses or reasons the plaintiff must not win the case. Some courts let you tell your Answer to the Clerk at the courthouse in person. Use the court locator box to contact the Court to ask.


Answering a Summons and Complaint

The time to answer the summons and complaint is either 20 or 30 days, depending on how you got the papers:

  • 20 days - if the summons was given to you by personal (in hand) delivery
  • 30 days - if the summons was given to you in any other way.

The time period includes weekends and holidays.

Your answer form should say any defense or explanation that you might have. It is very important to write down any defenses you want to tell the court. If you do not put a defense in your answer you may not be allowed to talk about it later in the case. You may also make a counterclaim in your Answer. Ask the Court Clerk if the court has an Answer form for you to use or you can make your own. If you got a summons that says at the top the words: “CONSUMER CREDIT TRANSACTION,” read Common Defenses in a Consumer Debt Case for a list of possible defenses. See a sample Answer Form for Consumer Credit Transaction. If you never heard of the plaintiff in your case, say this in your Answer.

But, be aware, there are many companies that make money by buying and collecting debts. For example, you could owe money to Discover Card, but you were sued by ABC Corp. because Discover Card sold the right to collect the money you owe. If you say this in your Answer the plaintiff will have to show the court that it owns your debt. If the complaint has a Verification at the end of it, this means that the plaintiff swore that the complaint is true. If there is a verification you should make a verified Answer. You do this by signing the Answer in front of a notary public. If you got an E-filing Notice with the court papers, this mean that you can serve and file your Answer over the internet using NYSCEF, the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system. Read about E-filing to see if this is something you want to do. If not, you can file your Answer in the same court where the case was started.

To serve the plaintiff with a copy of your answer have someone 18 or older (not you and not involved in the case) mail a copy to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff has a lawyer, a copy of your Answer is mailed to the lawyer. The person who does this for you must fill out an Affidavit of Service by mail form. Then, make sure you file this proof of service form with the court and keep a copy for yourself. Read How Legal Papers are Delivered for more information.


Answering a Summons with Notice

If you got a Summons with Notice, but no Complaint, you must send the plaintiff a Notice of Appearance and Demand for a Complaint form. When you do this, the plaintiff has 20 days to send you a Complaint. Check with your court for a form. See sample Notice of Appearance forms: Sample 1, Sample 2.

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