Once someone files a lawsuit against you and delivers a copy of the required court papers to you, you have only a limited number of days to file an answer. In New York, your case will begin in the Supreme Court, which is the lowest-level court in the three-tier court system, and that is where you will file your answer. You can represent yourself or hire a lawyer to help you navigate the legal process.
File Your Answer Within Legal Time Frame
Once the other party properly serves you with a summons, complaint and other applicable documents, the time frame to file an answer and optional counterclaim begins to run. If the court papers are hand-delivered or served in person within New York City, the answer must be filed within 20 days. If the papers are served by other means or outside New York City limits, the answer must be filed within 30 days. If you fail to file an answer within this time, the judge can rule against you and in favor of the other party, who originally filed the complaint.
Answer Form is Available at Courthouse or Online
When you receive a summons and complaint, or summons with a notice to appear in court, the court documents include important information about your case, such as the case number and courthouse where the case has been filed. If a copy of the answer form is not included with the documents served to you, you can obtain court-approved answer forms from the court clerk's office at the local courthouse or online. Although a court clerk cannot help you complete any legal forms, she can provide the correct court documents for you to complete based on the type of civil case.
Answer Must Include Defenses and Counterclaims
The Supreme Court of New York uses standard answer forms, with spaces to fill in basic case information. You fill in your responses to the claims that have been made against you in the complaint. You provide the names of each party, case number, any admissions of the facts, any denial of the facts, your defenses and counterclaims. In the answer, you must raise any and all defenses against the claims made by the other party in the complaint. If you fail to answer a claim raised in the complaint, the court can consider it to be an admission of those facts. If you plan to counter-sue the other party, you must include those counterclaims in your answer. You sign the answer form, and provide your name, address and telephone number.
You Can File Electronically or in Person
The New York State Unified Court System requires you to use the New York State Courts Electronic Filing System, abbreviated as NYSCEF, to file your case documents. However, you may opt-out of e-filing if you represent yourself in court. Once you complete your answer, you file it with the court clerk, in person or electronically. When you file your answer, you must deliver a copy to the other party, which can be sent by regular mail. Keep copies of your documents for your records, including proof of serving the other party with a copy. Bring your copies with you as evidence when you appear in court.
Answer a Summons Without Complaint With Notice
In some cases, the other party serves you with a summons and notice to appear in court instead of a summons and formal complaint. The summons and notice provide you, as the defendant, with minimal information about the lawsuit. These documents do not include a formal complaint from the other party; therefore, you cannot file an answer to admit or deny any specific facts because none have been included in a complaint. In this case, you can respond by filing a notice of appearance, which is often accompanied by a demand for a complaint. If you file and serve a demand for a complaint, the other party must produce a complaint within 20 days; otherwise, you can file a motion to dismiss the case.
Read More: How to Answer a Summons
Based in Los Angeles, Victoria McGrath has been writing law-related articles since 2004. She specializes in intellectual property, copyright and trademark law. She earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Arizona, College of Law. McGrath pursued both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Fine Arts at University of California, Los Angeles, in film and television production. Her work has been published in the Daily Bruin and La Gente Newsmagazine.