After receiving the plaintiff’s Complaint a defendant in the United States will usually either (i) move to dismiss the complaint (or a specific claim in the complaint); or (ii) answer the complaint.

So what is in the Answer?   Remember, the Complaint lists allegations in numbered paragraphs.   The plaintiff has the burden of proving each allegation of the Complaint.  When the defendant answers he admits or denies each of the allegations in each paragraph of the Complaint.  If he does not have sufficient information to know whether an allegation is true or not he will state that he does not know (deny knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief).  With limited exception, each of the allegations in the Complaint will be answered by the defendant.  In federal court, failing to respond to an allegation means that the defendant admits the allegation is true, which could be a very serious mistake by the defendant (or his lawyer).

Let’s say a plaintiff alleges in paragraph 5 of the Complaint that the defendant lied to the plaintiff.  We would expect the defendant to deny that allegation.  All the defendant has to do is write something like, “Defendant denies the allegations in paragraph 5.”  Now plaintiff has to prove that allegation is true.

Let’s say in paragraph 6 the plaintiff writes, “The defendant met with the plaintiff on January 10.”  Well, depending on the case the defendant might want to admit that allegation is true so he can simply write, “Defendant admits the allegations of paragraph 6.”  Now the plaintiff does not have to prove that the meeting took place on that day.

And let’s say the plaintiff alleges in paragraph 7, “The plaintiff was nervous on the day of the meeting.”  The defendant might choose to answer, “The defendant denies knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to whether the plaintiff was nervous.”  Denying knowledge or information in federal court is the same as a denial.  The plaintiff will have to prove this allegation. As in other aspects of civil litigation, you can probably guess that there is a good deal of strategy involved in answering a complaint.

The defendant will typically not submit proof or evidence in his Answer.  That comes later.

Below is an older video on the Answer: