Usually you learn about being sued by getting court papers handed to you or receiving them in the mail. These are referred to as the summons and complaint. The summons is a notice from the court that you have been sued. The complaint describes the other side’s case against you and how much they’re suing for.
As the person being sued, you will be considered the defendant or the respondent in the case. The person starting the lawsuit against you is the plaintiff or the petitioner.
Responding to a Summons and Complaint
What happens if I don’t respond?
If you don’t respond in time, the other side may ask for a default judgment from the court. This means the court could rule in favor of the other side without hearing your evidence. The court may determine that you owe money to the other side. If this happens, they can try to garnish your wages or get a lien on your property. A default judgment may also show up on your credit report.
How much time do I have to respond?
Maryland District Court Claims: Defendants have 15 days from the date that they receive the summons to file the notice of intention to defend with the court (out-of-state defendants and those with resident agents have 60 days to file the notice). By filing the notice found at the bottom of the summons, the defendant is letting the court know that he or she plans to argue that the plaintiff is not entitled to the damages being claimed.
Maryland Circuit Court Claims: Most of the time, the other side will have 30 days to file a response.
Is there a format I’ll need to use to respond?
You will need to formally file a written response with the court clerk. The courts may have a form you can use, depending on the type of case, or a Maryland attorney can help you draft a response that best fits your needs.
Do I have to respond?
You don’t have to respond. There may even be some situations where it’s better not to respond. But you should not make this decision without first speaking with a Maryland attorney.
How do I respond?
You have several options for responding to the lawsuit, and each depends on the circumstances of your case. The following are some of the possible documents you could file in response to the lawsuit against you:
FILE AN ANSWER OR GENERAL DENIAL
These are the two most common responses to a lawsuit. In an answer, you respond to each allegation against you individually. You might deny some and admit others. Any statements not denied in the answer will be considered admitted.
Another option is filing a general denial, which effectively denies every allegation in the complaint. This can’t be used in all civil cases, however.
In both the answer and general denial, you should raise any defenses and affirmative defenses, including relevant facts. If you don’t mention the defense in your answer, you can’t claim it later on. A Maryland attorney can help identify if you have any potential defenses.
FILE A MOTION
Filing a motion means that you are making some kind of request of the court. This request can come in many forms.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Filing a Motion to Dismiss tells the court that the lawsuit against you is deffective. The complaint could fail to state a claim for which Maryland law offer's any relief. The Maryland Courts might not be able to hear the lawsuit because the court lacks the authority or subject matter jurisdiction. The Maryland Court my have no authority over you because they lack personal jurisdiuction. You must tell the court why you think the lawsuit is deffective. The court may agree with you and dismiss the case, or it may overrule it. The court may also let the plaintiff fix any errors in the complaint and continue with the case.
MOTION TO STRIKE
A motion to strike asks the court to remove a certain part of the complaint because something is wrong or legally insufficient with that part.
MOTION TO CHANGE VENUE
This motion asks to move the case to another court. You might want to do this if the court is too far away or you don’t think you will get a fair trial there.
MOTION TO STAY
This asks the court to postpone the proceedings until a later date.
MOTION TO QUASH
When you serve (deliver) a copy of court papers to another party, there are very specific rules you need to follow. If the plaintiff did not follow these rules, a motion to quash asks the court to cancel the complaint. Often times, though, the court will let the plaintiff serve you with the papers again and let the case move forward.
FILE A COUNTER-CLAIM OR THIRD-PARTY COMPLAINT
You may have a claim against the plaintiff arising out of the same situation. If so, you can counter-sue the plaintiff when you file your answer. You should do this before or at the same time as the answer.
If you get sued, but you think a third party is responsible, you can file a motion for joinder to bring that other person into the case.
Filing your response
When filing your response, you will have to do the following:
File your response in the same court the lawsuit was filed.
You must serve a copy to the plaintiff.
File a copy of your proof of service with the court.
Keep in mind that when you give a copy of the paperwork to the plaintiff, it must be within the deadline for filing your response. There are also specific rules about how to deliver a copy to the other side. A Maryland attorney can help make sure you do everything correctly so you don’t lose your chance to defend yourself.
Experienced litigation attorneys to help you with your lawsuit
If you’re being sued, contact an experienced Maryland litigation attorney to help protect your interests in court.
Contact us to schedule an appointment, or call us at 301-605-1722. We look forward to helping you.