Filing a response is an important first step for any defendant in a civil lawsuit. By filing a
response, you establish that you are contesting the case and requiring the plaintiff to prove
their case at trial in order to win.

For most types of lawsuits, the law requires you to file a written response with the court
within 30 calendar days after you are served. If the 30th day falls on a weekend or court
holiday, you have until the close of the next business day to file your response.

If you do not file your response in time, the other party may get a default judgment against
you. This means that the other party wins the case, and the court will not consider anything
you have to say. They can begin enforcing this judgment by garnishing your wages, placing
liens on your property, or levying your bank accounts.

There are numerous options for your response. You will need to select the option that best
suits your situation.

    An Answer is the most common way to respond to a lawsuit. The Answer is the
    defendant's opportunity to admit or deny the specific allegations brought against them
    in the complaint. Any statements in the complaint that are not denied will be taken as
    true for the purposes of this case. (CCP 431.30(b)(1)).

    In the Answer, all defenses to the allegations of the complaint must be raised, and all
    facts essential to supporting the particular defense must be included.  These are called
    Affirmative Defenses. If you do not raise a particular defense in your answer, you will
    be prohibited from using or raising it later on.

    More Information and Forms:
    Fill-in-the-blanks forms are available for Answers to specific types of cases:
  • Answer-Personal Injury, Property Damage, Wrongful Death (form
  • Answer-Contract (form PLD-C-010)

    A General Denial is a simple response to an action. In one sentence, the defendant  
    denies every allegation in the complaint. The defendant may also state separate facts
    as affirmative defenses to the complaint.

    Use of the Judicial Council form is mandatory if the amount asked for is less than
    $1,000. The form may also be used if:
  • The complaint is not verified*.
  • The complaint is verified*, but is being heard in the limited jurisdiction civil court,
    unless the case involves a claim for more than $1,000 that has been assigned to
    a third party for collection.
    *A complaint is considered verified if, at the end of the complaint, the plaintiff swears
    under penalty of perjury that everything is true and correct.

    If your case does not meet the guidelines for the mandatory Judicial Council form, you
    will instead use your Answer to admit or deny each allegation.

    If your case meets the guidelines for the mandatory Judicial Council form:

    A Demurrer is used to tell the court that the allegations in the complaint do not provide
    legally sufficient reason for the defendant to be sued. A Demurrer questions only the
    legal sufficiency of the allegations, not their truth or the plaintiff's ability to prove them.
    In the Demurrer, the defendant must state what was left out of the complaint to make
    it legally insufficient.

    The defendant can object to all or just parts of the complaint on various grounds,
  • The complaint fails to state a cause of action.
  • The complaint is uncertain or unclear.
  • Another action is pending between the parties for the same cause of action.
  • The plaintiff does not have the legal capacity to sue.
  • Additional grounds for filing a demurrer can be found at CCP 430.10.

    If the Demurrer is overruled, the defendant must file an Answer to the original
    complaint within 10 days (CRC Rules 3.1320(g), (j)). If the Demurrer is sustained, the
    plaintiff can correct the errors in the complaint, re-serve the defendant, and the case
    will proceed.

    A Motion to Quash Service of Summons attacks the method the plaintiff used to serve
    the summons and complaint.
    Common grounds include:
  • Defect in the method of serving the summons.
  • Defect in the summons itself.
  • Failure to name the defendant in the summons.
  • Failure to serve the summons altogether.

    A Motion to Quash based on improper service usually will not dispose of a case
    permanently.  If plaintiff can properly serve the defendant, the case will proceed.

    With a Motion to Strike, the defendant asks the court to eliminate some of the
    language in the complaint. In limited jurisdiction cases, parties may only use this
    motion to attack the "prayer" portion of the complaint, where the plaintiff states the
    amount of money or relief being requested.

    All or part of a pleading may be deleted on the various grounds set forth in CCP 436,
  • It is not understandable.
  • It is not legal.
  • It repeats itself.
  • It is immaterial.

    A Motion to Strike is similar to a Demurrer, but is used to remove specific parts of a
    pleading, including phrases or individual words. A Motion to Strike is used to attack a
    specific portion of a cause of action, while a Demurrer is used to attack the entire cause
    of action.

    A Motion to Change Venue or Transfer asks the court to move the case to another
    court. This can be a court in another county or a different type of court.

    Be careful of the timing of this type of motion; you will need to allow yourself enough
    time to file an Answer. Grounds under which venue can be changed include:
  • The case was filed in the wrong court.
  • An impartial trial cannot be had in the original court.
  • Witness convenience and the ends of justice are promoted by the transfe.r
  • No judge of the court is qualified to act.
  • The case involves the state, city, county, or local agency.

    Changing venue does not terminate the case, it merely moves it to a different court.

    If you have a claim that arises out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of
    events as the plaintiff's lawsuit, you must file a Cross-Complaint with your Answer, or
    else give up the claim forever.
Fresno County Small Claims
and Civil Advisory
a project of the BBB in Partnership with Fresno Superior Court
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