Answers in federal court are generally due 21 days after the operative complaint, counterclaim or cross-claim is served. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(1).) If, however, you brought a motion in connection with the pleadings under Rules 12(b)-(e), and the motion was denied or ruling was postponed until trial, you have fourteen (14) days to answer. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(a)(4).
If you need a law practice guide to help you familiarize yourself with federal practice rules and deadlines, take a look at O’Connors’ Federal Rules: Civil Trials.
When is an answer due in federal court?
In its answer, the defendant needs to address each of the paragraphs specifically from the complaint. The defendant can admit, deny, or state a lack of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief about the truth of an allegation for each paragraph. In the case of partially true paragraphs, the defendant can admit the part that is true and deny or state lack of knowledge as to the rest. The defendant must also state at this time any affirmative defenses to be raised.
Because generally there is at least some part of the complaint which is true, it is rare for a defendant to answer with a general denial of the complaint, which denies all of the allegations.
Included in the answer is also a response to the prayer for relief, and a catchall denial at the bottom that says the defendant denies all allegations not admitted above, just in case one of the paragraphs from the complaint has not been responded to by accident. Any allegations not addressed by the defendant in its response are considered as admitted for purposes of the trial.
FRCP 8(c) provides an illustrative (not exhaustive) list of 18 affirmative defenses.
- Accord and satisfaction – Defendant purchased/contracted the right to be free from the debt or obligation from Plaintiff.
- Arbitration and award – The present matter has already been settled via arbitration.
- Assumption of risk – Plaintiff knew of a certain danger and chose to act anyway, so that harm that occurred is Plaintiff’s own fault.
- Contributory negligence – Plaintiff’s actions were negligent in some way, which negates ability to recover damages for any negligence on the part of Defendant.
- Duress – Plaintiff’s complaint fails because defendant acted under duress. Defendant was under the threat of serious injury or bodily harm and committed the injurious act as a result (more specific elements required).
- Estoppel – Plaintiff’s complaint fails because plaintiff is estopped from suing. Statement of word or deed prevents the Plaintiff from asserting a certain claim or right.
- Failure of consideration – In contract cases, there was no contract formed because the Plaintiff did not give consideration to the Defendant.
- Fraud – Plaintiff’s complaint failed because plaintiff engaged in fraud. When the action was the result of misrepresentation of facts on the part of the Plaintiff.
- Illegality – Plaintiff’s complain fails due to illegality. The act which was requested was illegal, or the reason the Defendant did not perform the act was because it was illegal.
- Injury by fellow servant – The employer is not liable to the Plaintiff if the injury was as a result of another employee’s negligence.
- Laches – Plaintiff’s complain is barred because of the doctrine of laches. When equitable relief is denied to the Plaintiff because of unreasonable delay in filing the action or stating a claim.
- License – Permission to make use of copyrighted or protected material.
- Payment – The discharge of an obligation by the delivery and acceptance of money.
- Release – The Plaintiff, through some type of writing, has released the Defendant from liability.
- Res judicata – This issue has already been decided by a prior court, and that decision is binding on this court, making recovery impermissible.
- Statute of frauds – The requirements of the statute of frauds are not satisfied in this case, and as a result the contract is unenforceable.
- Statute of limitations – The length of time that the legislature allows to sue for this issue has passed.
- Waiver – The Plaintiff signed a document waiving their rights to sue over the issue.