Answer

Definition

A defendant's first pleading in a case, which addresses the dispute on the merits and presents any defenses and counterclaims.  A typical answer denies most of the plaintiff's allegations and claims complete defenses to allegations that are not denied.

Overview

After receiving a plaintiff's complaint, a defendant must respond with a pleading called an answer. In the answer, the defendant must address each allegation in the complaint. Some jurisdictions allow defendants to make a general denial of all allegations in the complaint. The defendant may also raise counterclaims or affirmative defenses.

If a defendant does raise counterclaims in her answer, the plaintiff must respond to those counterclaims with a pleading called an "answer to a counterclaim." The form and content of an "answer to a counterclaim" is similar to that of an answer. In the federal courts, if the defendant does not plead a counterclaim, plaintiffs may only file a "reply to an answer" with the court's permission. See the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See also the federal courts' website for sample complaints.

See Civil Procedure.