compulsory counterclaim

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A compulsory counterclaim is a claim made by a defendant against a plaintiff that arises from the same transaction or occurrence as the plaintiff's claim, and which is forfeited if not raised in the same lawsuit. If the defendant fails to assert a counterclaim in their answer, they are thereafter precluded from asserting it against the plaintiff in the plaintiff's pending action or in an independent action. Compulsory counterclaims are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13(a)

While failing to raise a compulsory counterclaim typically results in the loss of that claim, a few exceptions exist. 

  • If an otherwise compulsory counterclaim requires adding a party over whom the court cannot obtain jurisdiction, that counterclaim does not need to be raised. 
  • Additionally, if the pleader fails to make a compulsory counterclaim as the result of through oversight, inadvertence, or excusable neglect, or if justice requires it - then the pleader may by leave of court set up a counterclaim by amendment.

Compulsory counterclaims are contrasted with permissive counterclaims, or claims which are not forfeited if you fail to raise them in an answer

[Last updated in July of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]