The Answer does not have to be an all out knock-down denial. In fact, it can and should admit those things that are incontrovertible and not in reasonable dispute. This would include such things as if you are living at a certain address, that you work at a certain job, or that you know the person suing you. You may also be required to admit things like proper venue and jurisdiction (if indeed they are proper) and that service of process is proper (if it is). If some of the claims against you are incontrovertible you may be required to admit those as well but this is less common. Admissions can help narrow the issues for the parties in the lawsuit and will therefore save them time and money later on.
Sometimes the Complaint is vague in its allegations of facts and claims that you don’t have enough information about the claims. You can make the statement in the lawsuit papers that you “can neither admit nor deny” because you don’t have enough information from what is alleged in the Complaint. Like everything else in lawsuit papers, only state this if it is true. Being forced to prove facts that should have been admitted with facts known can come back to bite you.
The person being sued can deny the claims made in the Complaint and also deny that the facts asserted in the Complaint are correct. The person being sued can also raise something called “affirmative defenses.” Affirmative defenses are set up in the Answer. Affirmative defenses are things that you can claim to be in your favor, and would defend you against the allegations raised in the Complaint. This includes things like the party who is suing you has waived their claim against you (note that the term “waiver” has specific legal meaning). Another affirmative defense is that the party suing you is “estopped” from suing you because of their own actions or because they have brought a lawsuit against you on the same or similar claims in the past. This is also known as “res judicata.”
Another affirmative defense is “failure to state a claim.” Failure to state a claim means that under all circumstances taken in favor of the person suing you that no actual legal claim can be made out against you. This would be the case if someone was suing
you for breach of contract when you didn’t enter into a contract with them, or if they have alleged you have caused a car accident when you were not driving the car at issue. Furthermore, additional defenses include lack of jurisdiction, improper venue, improper service of the lawsuit papers upon you, and others.
If you are being sued because of something that happened years ago, you may set up a defense called a “statute of limitations defense.” This is one of the biggest defenses that can be made. Essentially, the statute of limitations is a rule that prevents people from bringing stale claims against another. The timeframe for a statute of limitations is usually contained in the state statutes but occasionally can be set by contract between parties. If the claim is brought outside of the statute of limitations we call it “barred” and an appropriate affirmative defense can be set up claiming that the case is barred under the statute of limitations.
Still other affirmative defenses may be that the Complaint does not address other parties who may have a role in bringing the Complaint or are at fault for the case. This is known as failure to join “indispensable parties.” This means that the lawsuit cannot proceed until all parties who have an interest in the lawsuit are joined. Other defenses also exist and depend on the facts of the case, such as comparative fault, set-off, or accord and satisfaction.
If you have been sued call us at Fargo Patent & Business Law at 701-566-7571 or www.fargopatentlaw.com.