How to File an Answer to a Summons

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If you're served with a summons, it means that someone is taking you to court to resolve a dispute. The summons will state the nature of the complaint against you, the allegations of the lawsuit and the kind of resolution the plaintiff is seeking from you. Typically, there is a deadline written in the summons. You must respond before that date or a judge may render a default judgment against you which means you're found liable for the allegations and must make restitution.

Read each allegation of the summons carefully. In many cases, the allegations are listed by number. Identify who is suing you and what the reasons are for the lawsuit. Find the deadline date on the summons so you're aware how much time you have to file your response.

If a response form came with the summons, use it to write your response to each allegation. If there's no response form, use a clean sheet of paper to write your responses.

Go through each separate numbered allegation and make a response. If you deny the allegation, write what you believe is the truth and provide any documentation or evidence you have to support your claim. If you're using your own response form, verify that your numbered answers align with the numbered allegations on the summons.

Visit the court where the claim was filed. The address can be found on the summons you received. Tell the court clerk you are filing an answer to a summons. Sign the response form in the presence of the court clerk. If there's a fee for filing, pay the fee.

Serve a copy of your answer to the plaintiff in the case. In the event that the plaintiff has retained a lawyer, fax, mail or have someone hand deliver it to the lawyer's office. As the defendant, you cannot deliver the response personally, but you can commission someone who is 18 or older to deliver it on your behalf. There are typically deadlines associated with delivering your response to the plaintiff. Find out the deadline and send the response before that date.

Warnings

  • Call the court if no response form came with the summons to make sure there are no specific formats you must follow when making your response.
  • Filing a response that disputes the plaintiff's claims usually leads to a contested claim hearing. Make sure you appear at the hearing or the judge may grant the plaintiff a default judgment against you.

Tips

  • If you choose to mail your response to the court rather than going in person, you must sign the response form in the presence of a notary who will then place the response form into the envelope and seal it. Make sure you mail the response using a post office tracking method well in advance of the deadline.
  • Make two copies of your response form. One will be sent to the plaintiff, and the other is for your records.

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About the Author

Sampson Quain is a screenwriter and filmmaker who began writing in 1996. He has sold feature and television scripts to a variety of studios and networks including Columbia, HBO, NBC, Paramount and Lionsgate. He holds a Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.