Answering the Summons & Complaint

You can either answer the summons in writing or in person. If you answer in person, you must go to the courthouse clerk’s office and tell the clerk about your defenses to the plaintiff’s claims. The clerk will check off the boxes in a Consumer Credit Transaction Answer In Person form. You will get a copy of this form when the clerk is done, and you should double-check the information the clerk wrote down. If everything is correct, the clerk will then send a copy of your answer to the plaintiff.

If you choose to answer the summons in writing, you can either use the free form offered by the court, or you can create your own form. If you create your own form for the answer, it must be either typed or neatly handwritten. Also, your written answer must be “verified,” which means you are saying everything in the answer is true. In order to verify the answer, you must sign it in front of a notary public or the court clerk. You can also assert a counterclaim against the plaintiff if you think the creditor owes you money.

Before you take your written answer to the clerk for filing, you should make a copy of it. Give the answer and one copy of the answer to the court clerk. The clerk will give one copy to the plaintiff and return one copy to you. When you go to court to see the judge, you should bring your copy with you.

There are several different defenses you can assert in your answer, depending on the facts of your situation, including:

  • You do not owe the money;
  • You are the victim of identity theft;
  • You already paid the debt;
  • The amount of the debt is incorrect;
  • The plaintiff does not own the debt;
  • The plaintiff has no license to collect the debt;
  • The complaint does not show the debt collection license number;
  • The statute of limitations has passed and the debt is too old to collect;
  • The debt was discharged in bankruptcy;
  • The agreement related to the debt is unconscionable, or shockingly unfair;
  • You are in the military;
  • Your debt arose out of work done by a home improvement contractor who was not licensed and/or had you sign a defective contract according to the home improvement statutes.

Legal Editors: Steven Bennett and David Kassell, July 2015

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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