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Answering Complaint

Answering The Complaint From The March 1995
Issue of the Newsletter: Proceeding Pro Se

By: Carl R. Frederick, President APSA

You must answer a complaint in time or you will lose by default. Our members know this but for those of you who do not, this guide should be helpful.

First, it’s really not a good idea to write an answer in pen at the court house unless you waited to the last day and have no choice. The acceptable approach is to type the caption* (similar to how your adversary typed his complaint) on your PC and then break down your answer into 3 or 4 parts.

You need to answer each numbered question in sequence and generally your answers should be:

a) Admits;

b) Denies; or

c) Defendant is without sufficient information and leaves Plaintiff to his proof.

Generally c) is a good option because you have not committed yourself or given any solid information your adversary can shoot you down with.

The second part you need is affirmative defenses. If you do not have a good list of them use the following because it will generally cover 90% of all possibilities — and most often in the law, if you do not claim a right you lose it and affirmative defenses represent that claim. List on separate lines the standard affirmative defenses which include:

1) latches, 2) Pari Delicto, 3) unclean hands, 4) failure to state a claim, 5) violation of statute, 6) failure to name all necessary parties, 7) insufficiency or defect of service, 8) lack of jurisdiction, 9) accord and satisfaction, 10) fraud, 11) statute of limitations and/or other time limitations, 12) bad faith acts of omissions and/or negligence, 13) Failure to comply with applicable regulations, 14) failure to comply with applicable state or federal law and 15) estopple or collateral estopple.

The third part, if you have a valid counterclaim or third-party claim, now is the time to make it. In most jurisdictions if you do not do so at the time of your answer, when you generally have the right as a matter of law (check your jurisdiction) — you will not likely get the court to grant permission to you on motion later when your adversary can oppose the motion — and many courts are unfriendly to pro se parties. Finally, after putting your draft answer in the best shape possible, print it out in double or triple space and take it to an attorney.

Our Approved Legal Advisors (Attorneys) charge only $75 hour to our members for advice, comments and edit and they are definitely above average members of the bar. Then retype and serve and file as per the rules for the particular court.

We at the APSA Association emphasize it is most important to have an attorney review and edit your papers prior to filing. I have answered many complaints and I always have an attorney review my papers before filing — one reason why I have never lost as a defendant.

* Caption: This is the first page format of court papers and usually has at the top left corner the full name, firm, address and telephone number of the law firm producing that paper. If you are Pro Se, you will put your full name and so forth. The second part consists of the Plaintiff v. Defendant and the court in which the case is being tried with its docket number and the subject of the particular paper such as: complaint, notice of motion, affidavit and so forth.

Legal Importance of Time

Affirmative Defenses

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