Answering a Case

If you received a Summons and Complaint, you only have a short time to deliver a written Answer to the plaintiff and the Court. The Answer is your chance to tell the court your defenses or reasons why the plaintiff must not win the case. Some courts let you give your Answer to the Clerk at the courthouse in person. Use the court locator box to contact the Court to ask if they allow this form of Answer.


Answering a Summons and Complaint

The time to answer the summons and complaint is either 10, 20 or 30 days, depending on how you received the papers and whether the case is in a court inside or outside New York City:

  • 10 days - if the summons and complaint were given to you by personal (in hand) delivery within the county. This applies only to cases in City Courts outside of New York City
  • 20 days - if the summons and complaint were given to you by personal (in hand) delivery. This applies to all cases in any other court other than City Courts outside of New York City
  • 30 days - if the summons and complaint were given to you in any other way

If you already filed an answer and wish to change something in it, you have 10 days from the day you filed the original answer to amend or update your answer. If the 10 days have passed, you must make a motion to amend the answer.

These time periods include weekends and holidays.

Ask the Court Clerk if the court has an Answer form for you to use, if not, you can write your own Answer.

Your answer may include a general denial and any defense or explanation to the complaint that you might have. A general denial is when you deny everything that is in the complaint without denying a specific allegation. It is very important to write down any defenses you want to tell the court. If you do not include a defense in your answer, the judge may not allow you talk about it later in the case.

You may also include a counterclaim in your Answer. A counterclaim is claim made by the person sued in a case against the person who started the case. A counterclaim can be for a new claim or for something connected to the other side’s claims.

*If you received a summons that says at the top the words: “CONSUMER CREDIT TRANSACTION,” read Common Defenses in a Consumer Debt Case for a list of possible defenses. See a sample Answer Form for Consumer Credit Transaction.

Be aware that there are many companies that make money by buying and collecting debts. For example, you could owe money to Discover Card, but you were sued by ABC Corp. This happens because Discover Card sold the right to collect the money you owe to ABC Corp.

If you never heard of the plaintiff in your case, it is important to include in your answer that you don’t have a business relationship with the plaintiff. By including this in your answer, the plaintiff will have to show the court that it owns your debt and will have to submit a letter from the creditor that proves that the debt is valid.

If the complaint has a Verification at the end of it, this means that the plaintiff swore that the complaint is true. If there is a Verification at the end of the complaint, you should make a verified Answer. You can do this by signing the Answer in front of a notary public.

When you file your Answer with the court, make sure to ask the clerk what the procedures are for serving the answer on the Plaintiff. Some courts will automatically serve the answer on the Plaintiff for you..

If you are instructed to serve the plaintiff with a copy of your answer, you must have someone that is 18 years-old or older mail a copy to the plaintiff. Neither you or anyone directly involved in the case can serve the Plaintiff. If the plaintiff has a lawyer, a copy of your Answer should be mailed to the lawyer. The person mails the paperwork must fill out a form called the Affidavit of Service by mail form. You may have to file this affidavit of service form with the court or bring it with you on your court date. It is important to keep a copy for yourself. Read How Legal Papers are Delivered for more information.

Some lawsuits are filed electronically. If your lawsuit was started electronically, this means that you can serve and file your Answer over the Internet using the New York State Courts Electronic Filing system (NYSCEF). Read about E-filing to see if this is something you want to do. If not, you can file your Answer in the same court where the case was started and can ask the court how to opt out of electronic filing.


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