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Cross-complaint, also called “crossclaim”, is an independent action brought by a party against a co-party, the original plaintiff, or someone who is not yet a party to the lawsuit. The cross-complaint must arise out of the same transaction or occurrence of plaintiff’s claim against the defendant. For example, if a plaintiff-pedestrian sues a defendant-owner-of-the-car and defendant-driver for a car accident, the defendant-owner can file a cross-complaint against the defendant-driver.

Different jurisdiction can define cross-complaint differently:

In Rule 13 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, crossclaim is defined narrowly. The rule differentiates counterclaim and crossclaim. While they are both independent actions, counterclaim is only brought by the defendant against the plaintiff, crossclaim can be brought by the defendant against a co-party or by a plaintiff against a co-party. There is no compulsory crossclaim in FRCP.

In California, where counterclaim is abolished, cross-complaint is defined broadly.  A defendant can file a cross-complaint against a plaintiff, a co-party, or a non-party if the cross-complaint arises out of the same transaction (California Code of Civil Procedure 428.10). There’s compulsory cross-complaint and permissive cross-complaint in California.

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]