How to Answer a Summons and Complaint if You’ve Been Sued

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If you ask the average person what life events frightened them the most, one of the answers will surely come up as the fear of being sued. With many collection agencies and junk debt buyers turning to the legal system to collect, more and more people are being sued over outstanding debts. This article will cover the best way to handle this situation if you find yourself served with a Summons and Complaint. This article covers lawsuits dealing with debt only. You might also watch to watch our video on being sued.

Served a Lawsuit – Now What Do You Do?

If you have been served with a lawsuit, the time to send a debt validation letter is over. It is common for a person to think that sending a debt validation letter to the law firm/collection agency/junk debt buyer will somehow stop the court case or serve as a proper answer to the summons. That is most certainly not the case. Once you are sued, your priority should be writing your Answer to the court addressing each point in the Complaint. If you don’t do this, you will automatically lose the case by default. Your time to answer the complaint is limited, usually 20 to 30 days from the day you are served. Don’t waste this precious time on debt validation.

What is a Summons and Complaint?

In the packet of papers you received from the process server, you will find your Summons and Complaint. Here is what you will be looking for in these papers:

  • A document telling you when your court date is.
  • Some kind of certification that you were served.
  • Instructions for answering the complaint or a form to fill out.
  • Any evidence the Plaintiff (i.e., collection agency) is submitting. There could be documents such as affidavits from the collection agency. There might also be documents from the original creditor, although this is extremely rare.
  • A list of allegations, which constitutes the complaint.

Next, we will go over the steps to identify the complaint in the paperwork.

What is a Complaint?

In legal jargon, a complaint is any formal legal document that sets out the facts and legal reasons that the filing party believes are sufficient to support a claim against you. As you look through the paperwork you received from the process server, most complaints will look like the following.

Complaint Number #XXXXXXX
Collection Attorney Plaintiff vs. Defendant (you)

Allegation 1: <Gives plaintiff’s name, address>
Allegation 2: <Gives your name and address>
Allegation 3: Typically, this next allegation will say something like “Defendant obtained a credit card from Credit card Company X”
Allegation 4: Typically, this next allegation will say something like “Defendant used the credit card to obtain goods and services using the card”
Allegation 5: Typically, this next allegation will say something like “Defendant racked up charges totally $XX and then refused to pay”

How to Prepare Your Answer

The most important thing you can do is to Answer the Complaint by the due date. This is the most important thing you can do when you receive a summons.

Once you’ve identified the paperwork that constitutes the complaint, you must answer it. You merely reply by stating whether or not you agree with the statements in the complaint and why. Don’t hide your head in the sand, you have nothing to lose by answering the complaint, even if you don’t do it exactly right. You must do it quickly, you only have 20 to 30 days (depending on your court) to answer the complaint. If you do nothing, you automatically lose and the collection agency has a judgment against you.

Answering the Complaint Correctly

You can write your answer on a plain piece of paper, or type them up on your computer. No fancy or legal format is necessary. As long as your answer is clear, it will be fine. In some court systems, they provide written forms for you to fill out. You can use them and attach a more detailed answer.

IMPORTANT: You must ADMIT or DENY each allegation. Failure to deny an allegation means that you are admitting to it. Using the above example, this is how you would answer each and every allegation:

Your answer to Allegation #1:
In your answer, you would ADMIT allegation #1, that the Plaintiff is who they say they are.

Your answer to Allegation #2:
You would also ADMIT allegation #2, that you (the Defendant) are who Plaintiff says you are.

Your answer to Allegation #3:
We are assuming in allegation #3, that you opened a credit card account with them, has been backed up by zero evidence. For instance, some lawsuits are filed by Junk Debt Buyers acting as collection agencies who don’t even list the account number of the original credit card. They don’t have any statements from the credit card companies, nothing. They’ve provided no proof so you, as a result, have no idea what they are talking about. The same holds true for allegations 4 and 5.

ADMIT in part. I did have an account with Bank X. DENY in part, I have been presented no evidence that the account I had with Bank X is the same account as the debt alleged in this complaint.


DENY. Responding Party objects to this request on the ground that it is vague, ambiguous and unintelligible in that Responding Party has to speculate as to the meaning of “the credit card” and “the account.”

Your answer to Allegation #4:
DENY. This request calls for admission of matter defendant has denied and thus it is improper.


DENY. Responding Party objects to this request on the ground that it is vague, ambiguous and unintelligible in that Responding Party has to speculate as to the meaning of “the credit card” and “the account.”

Your answer to Allegation #5:
DENY. This request calls for admission of matter defendant has denied and thus it is improper.

Using Affirmative Defenses in Your Answer

Affirmative defenses are legal reasons why the complaint should be thrown out of court. Some of the best affirmative defenses are:

  • Failed to state the basis of the lawsuit. They did not cite an actual state law that was violated.
  • Debt is time-barred. The statute of limitations has passed.
  • Plaintiff lacks legal standing. The plaintiff has failed to provide legal evidence that they are legally entitled to collect the debt. This happens when a debt collector cannot prove they purchased or were assigned the debt.

You can list these affirmative defenses at the bottom of your answer, after the specific responses to the allegations.

File Your Answer with the Court

You will need to send a copy of your answer to the courts and the lawyer listed in the complaint. Make sure you send them within the time allowed and send them registered mail or take them to the court and file them with the clerk of courts.

Requests for Discovery

In some courts, you need to file any counter-suit along with your answer. In addition, if you intend to ask for discovery (request disclosure of information and documents from the Plaintiff), you may need to send it along with your answer. Every court’s rules are different, you need to look this up. Which brings us to the next item.

Look up Courts Rules of Procedure

Most courts have online instructions and information. Take the time to read it. You will at least need to know the timetable of your case.

Evidence Included in the Summons and Complaint

Most often you will be presented with exhibits (documentation that serves as evidence) in the case file, such as credit card agreements and affidavits of debt. Usually, you can object to this evidence and get it thrown out of the case based on hearsay. If you are successful in getting this evidence thrown out (struck from the records), the Plaintiff will have no evidence against you. If they have no evidence, they cannot win.

A word about affidavits; Robo-signing is rampant in the debt lawsuit industry. You can always attach an affidavit to get it thrown out as hearsay.

Tips for Filing Your Answer

Many courts will let you handle everything through the mail. There is no need to take time off of work to personally file your answer. Send everything certified mail, return receipt requested; one copy to the court, one copy to the lawyer representing the Plaintiff.

Another good idea is to include a self-addressed stamped envelope and one extra copy with your answer to the court. In some cases, if you made a mistake in your answer, they will let you know immediately. If nothing else, they will send you an endorsed-filed copy of the filing so you know it was entered. One of our readers received a handwritten note from the clerk asking my reader to call so the clerk could help correct the filing.

Here is a Sample Letter To Use

PLEASE DO NOT JUST CUT AND PASTE THIS – Every complaint is different. One size DOES NOT fit all. If you merely cut and paste, you WILL LOSE.

Complaint number #XXXXXXX
Collection Attorney Plaintiff vs. Defendant (You)

Defendant’s Answer to Complaint

Allegation 1: Admit
Allegation 2: Admit
Allegation 3: Denied: Responding Party objects to this request on the ground that it is vague, ambiguous, and unintelligible in that Responding Party has to speculate as to the meaning of “the credit card” and “the account.”
Allegation 4: Denied: This request calls for admission of matter defendant has denied and thus it is improper.
Allegation 5: Denied: This request calls for admission of matter defendant has denied and thus it is improper.
FURTHERMORE, Defendant DENIES every other allegation not previously admitted, denied or controverted.


  1. Plaintiff fails to state a cause of action against the defendant.
    2. Plaintiff, as the defendant is informed and believes, lacks the legal standing to bring and maintain this action.
    3. The action is barred by the Statute of Frauds.
    4. The action is barred by the Statute of Limitations.
    5. The court would unjustly enrich the plaintiff by granting the relief sought herein.
    6. The plaintiff has not proven the debt is valid or the amount of the debt is accurate. The plaintiff must prove that the principal, interest, collection costs, and attorney’s fees are all correct, agreed to in your contract, and lawfully charged. Defendant also insists that the plaintiff come up with the contract, account statements, and purchase receipts to prove the amount of the debt.

WHEREFORE, the defendant asks the Court for judgment:
a. dismissing the complaint herein with prejudice.

What if I want to compel arbitration?

In some cases, especially if you feel you are dealing with a Junk Debt Buyer (JDB), you may want to go into arbitration.  The technique of using arbitration can be effective as most times, it is quite expensive for a JDB to go through arbitration and they could just walk away from the debt.

If that is the case, you want to file a Motion to Compel Arbitration at the same time as filing your answer.  Do NOT file it instead of filing your answer to the summons.

Please note: WE ARE NOT ATTORNEYS. If you are being sued, it’s always a good idea to hire an attorney or get some legal assistance. If you cannot afford an attorney, a lot of people have handled their cases pro per or without a lawyer. Our articles are meant to provide basic information on handling litigation.

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