Writing a general denial for a civil court case in Texas is a simple matter of filling in a defendant's form answer. You enter your name, driver's license and Social Security number, then sign at the bottom of the document. But you may give up some claims when you do this.
When You Are Served With a Texas Summons
In Texas, as in most states, a civil case begins when the plaintiff has the defendant served with legal documents. If you are the defendant, you'll probably get handed these documents by a process server, but any adult who isn't a part of the lawsuit can do it.
One of the documents is called a summons. In effect, it summons – or calls – you to answer the lawsuit by filing papers at the courthouse within a particular period of time. If the complaint is in small claims or justice court, you have 14 days from the day you were served to file an answer. If the complaint is filed in a district or county court, you have 20 days.
In Texas, you also have to send a copy of your answer to the plaintiff within that time period. If you do not respond within the time period, the other side can ask the judge for a judgment anyway. This is a default judgment.
Read More: How to Answer a Summons
Filing a General Denial
It is very tempting and also easy to file a general denial in Texas. You don't even have to write out the words on the defendant's answer form because they are already there. Paragraph 2 states :"I enter a general denial. I request notice of all hearings in this case."
All you have to do to write a general denial is fill out the rest of the form. That includes copying the caption from the complaint. The caption is the section at the top that contains the plaintiff's name, your name, the name of the court and the case number. You'll also have to fill in your driver's license number and Social Security number. Then sign and date the answer at the bottom of the form.
Other Considerations Before Filing a Denial
But take care before you zip off the general denial form. First, if you have any jurisdictional issues, you need to raise them before filing an answer. A jurisdictional issue is a question about whether the particular court is the appropriate place to raise the issues. For example, if you live out of state and have never set foot in the state, you may want to claim that the court doesn't have jurisdiction over you. If your first filing is a general denial, you may waive jurisdictional issues.
You also waive most affirmative defenses if you just file a general denial. A general denial in Texas denies all of the plaintiff's claims, but an affirmative defense provides another separate reason why the plaintiff shouldn't win. Paragraph 4 of the answer form lists standard legal affirmative defenses, but you can list any other affirmative defenses you want to claim.
If you don't understand these affirmative defenses, it may be wise to talk with an attorney. It's never a good idea to waive a claim without understanding it.
- Always consult with an attorney if possible before proceeding pro se.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.