Now is the time for the defendant to answer (respond to) your consumer protection complaint filed in federal court. What does this mean and what happens next?
What is an answer?
The “Answer” responds to the complaint. So the complaint alleges certain facts. The answer either admits or denies those facts.
In Federal Court, the answer should go paragraph by paragraph and either admit or deny the allegations. So here would be some examples:
**Denied **Admitted **Defendant admits that it credit reported on Plaintiff but denies it violated the law in doing so.
**Defendant admits that it is a debt collector but denies the remaining allegations of this paragraph.
The concept is that you could lay the complaint on your kitchen table and the answer on your kitchen table and go through them together. So you look at paragraph 73 in your complaint and the response to paragraph 73 and you can tell if there is a dispute or not over that fact.
And then the answer puts “affirmative defenses” before the court.
What are affirmative defenses in the defendant’s answer?
An affirmative defense is where the defendant says, “Ok I may be guilty but the Plaintiff still loses because of ______.”
Here is an example:
**Statute of limitation — this means that the defendant claims you waited too long to file the suit. So even though the defendant is guilty, it gets off the hook because of the time it took to file the lawsuit.
Again, the basic idea is, “I may be guilty but because of ____ I get to win the lawsuit.”
What do I need to do with the answer?
You can either do nothing with it (your lawyers will handle it) or you can go through and compare the complaint and answer to see what it looks like is actually in dispute. Generally the defendant denies most everything in the lawsuit and, in essence, says to you, “Prove it.”
But sometimes they are honest and say, “Yes, this allegation is correct.”
Knowing the affirmative defenses can also give you an idea of how the defendant is going to defend the case but I will warn you that almost every defendant literally puts in every single affirmative defense so it doesn’t really mean much.
What happens now that the defendant has filed an answer?
Now the case is moving. The lawsuit has been filed and now the defendant has responded. So the next step is to have a meeting of the lawyers to pick out a proposed schedule for the court to consider — we’ll look at this in our next article.
Hope you are enjoying our series on consumer protection lawsuits in federal court.
Give us a call at 205-879-2447 if you have any questions and we’ll be glad to help you any way we can.