How to Respond to a Statement of Claim in Small Claims Court

Every lawsuit begins when the plaintiff files a complaint with the court. Small claims complaints are often shorter than regular civil complaints. Courts typically require the plaintiff to use a pre-made form to make the complaint. After the complaint is filed, the defendant must be notified. The defendant receives a copy of the complaint and a summons form listing the court date. Often, the defendant has 30 days to respond to the claims in the complaint.

Read through the complaint carefully. It is easy to simply scan the complaint and feel angry or betrayed when you get served with the lawsuit. However, you must carefully read through each allegation and decide objectively whether the statements are true or false.

Contact the small claims court and ask for an “answer” form. The answer is a document used to answer the allegations made in the complaint. Forms may also be available over the Internet at the small claims court website.

Accept or deny each statement made in the complaint. Often, the complaint contains numbered paragraphs listing each allegation against you. Mirror the complaint’s structure and use numbered paragraphs to accept or deny each factual allegation. If you fail to deny a statement, the court may treat it as if you are accepting that fact as true.

Send a copy of your answer back to the court and back to the plaintiff of the lawsuit. Appear at the scheduled hearing to argue your case.

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About the Author

Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.