A summons and a complaint are two of the basic documents used to start a lawsuit in California. The complaint sets out the issues raised in the suit (what the other person is "complaining" about) while the summons calls (summons) the defendant to court to respond to the allegations.
There are several appropriate ways for the defendant to respond to a summons and complaint in California. But each is only appropriate in certain circumstances. Anyone involved in litigation needs to understand how court procedures work in a California lawsuit before jumping to respond to the opening papers.
Going to Court in California
A lawsuit in California can take many forms. It can be one person suing another, one party suing many people, someone
The basics are the same, however, in California. There is at least one party suing, and
Responding to the Summons and Complaint
When a person
If the defendant does not respond to the summons and complaint, the plaintiff can ask the judge for a default judgment against her. The entry of a default judgment means that the court hears the plaintiff's case
Considerations When Responding to a Summons
The most common way to respond to a complaint in California is to file an answer or general denial, but in certain circumstances, it is better to file a demurrer or a motion asking the court to take some action. Which to file?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to which option is the better option and it is almost always better,
- Whether the complaint states a cause of action.
in a proper court. the complaint was filed
according to court rules. the summons and complaint were served
- Whether he should make claims against the plaintiff in the same suit.
Options for a Response: an Answer
In California, a defendant usually responds to a summons and complaint served on him by filing an answer. This is a legal document in which he can admit or deny each claim made by the plaintiff in the complaint. An answer must
The defendant must also raise any defenses to the allegations and any essential facts for that defense in the answer
In California, the defendant can use fill-in-the-blank answer forms for particular types of complaints,
Options for a Response: General Denial
In certain cases, the defendant
- When the complaint seeks $1,000 in damages or less.
- When the complaint
by the plaintiff (that is, when the complaint does not include a statement by the plaintiff swearing under penalty of perjury that everything set out in the complaint is true and correct). is not verified
- When the complaint
but the amount in controversy is $25,000 or less and not more than $1,000 of the damages represent amounts assigned to a third party for collection. is verified
Options for a Response: Demurrer
Sometimes a plaintiff just gets it wrong, making allegations that, even if
- The complaint
state a cause of action. fails to
- The complaint is uncertain.
allegations are unclear. complaint 's
- There is another lawsuit
pending between the parties for the same cause of action. currently
- The plaintiff does not have the legal capacity to sue.
The court can overrule the demurrer and order the defendant to file an answer. It can sustain the demurrer,
Options to Respond: Motions
A motion is a request one
Each motion is only appropriate in specific situations. For example, a defendant can
A defendant can
The third most common type of motion California defendants use in response to a summons is a Motion for Change of Venue. This
Teo Spengler earned a JD from U.C. Berkeley Law School. 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 MA and an MFA in English/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.