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When You've Been Sued - Information for the defendant

This page helps you respond to a civil case, complaint, or lawsuit filed against you:  

  1. I’ve been sued. What do I do now?
  2. When can I file a Cross-Complaint?
  3. Who can file a Joinder?  
  1. I've been sued. What do I do now?

    • Deadline to File your Response:

      After you are served, you have 30 days to file a typed response with the Court, counting holidays and weekends.
    • You Can Lose By Default:

      If you don’t file a response 30 days after you were served, the Plaintiff can file a form called “Request for Default”. The Plaintiff has to wait 30 days to file this. If the Plaintiff files this form, the Court can enter a judgment against you. The Plaintiff will win the case. Then, the Plaintiff can enforce the judgment against you.

      This can mean getting money from you by garnishing your paycheck or putting a lien on your house or car. A judgment against you can also show up on your credit report. This can make it hard to get a credit card or a loan.

    • Cancel a Default Judgment:

      You can ask to cancel, or “set aside” a default judgment. You have to have a good reason for not responding in 30 days. If the judgment is canceled, you’ll get a chance to answer.
    • Types of Responses:

      You can file most of the responses we talk about with Court forms. You can get the forms at:

      Some local forms are at the Court’s Local Forms page.

      You have to file a Proof of Service form with your response. (See "What is Service of Process" on the Plaintiff's "Before You Sue" page of this website.)

      Here are some of the types of responses:

      • Answer:

        You can file an Answer form to respond to the Plaintiff’s complaint. It is a formal statement, in writing, of your defense. You can say that what the plaintiff claims isn’t true. Or you can say it’s true but give more information and reasons or explain the situation.

        The Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) 431.30(b)  says what you should put in your Answer.
      • General Denial:

        This is a way to say that nothing in the Complaint is true. Use this if you don’t agree with anything in the Complaint.

      • Demurrer:

        You can file a Demurrer to tell the Court that the Complaint isn’t enough. You’re saying that even if the complaint is true, it’s not a legal reason for you to have to answer or be held responsible. Say your reasons.

        Note: Filing a Demurrer means that you might be admitting that what the Plaintiff says is true.
      • Motion to Strike:

        This asks the Court to take something out of the Plaintiff’s Complaint, because:  

        • It’s not understandable,
        • It’s not legal,
        • It repeats itself, or
        • It doesn’t matter (called "immaterial").

        Give your reasons why the Court should take it out of the Complaint.  

      • Motion to Transfer:

        This asks the Court permission to move the case to another Court. This can be a court in another County or a different type of Court. Give your reasons why the Court should let the case be moved.

      • Motion to Quash Service of Summons:

        This asks the Court to say that the Complaint wasn’t served properly. Say why service was not right.
      • Motion to Stay or Dismiss Action:

        A Motion to Stay asks the Court to put the case on hold for a while, so that something else can happen. A Motion to Dismiss asks the Court to throw out your case. Say why you want this.

      • Where do I file? How do I file?

        To learn where to file, hours, fax, mail, fees and fee waivers, go to Where do I file my lawsuit? on the "Before You Sue" page. To learn how to serve papers, see How do I serve the defendant? (on that same web page).
  2. When can I file a Cross-Complaint?

    You can file a case against the Plaintiff or someone else about the same thing as the Complaint. This is called a Cross-Complaint.

    For example, in a car injury case, you can file a Cross-Complaint against the Plaintiff or against a 3rd driver for damage to your car.

  3. Who can file a Joinder?

    Any party can file and serve a "Joinder". This makes another person a part of the lawsuit without filing a cross-complaint against that person. This can be anyone who has a stake in the way the case will come out.

More pages for the defendant:

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