Served with Summons. Now What?

If you have been properly served with a lawsuit, the clock is ticking on when you must respond and answer. The guidelines below will help you if you have been served with a lawsuit in Texas.

Deadline to Respond

There are two different deadlines to know if you have been served with a lawsuit. This article does not discuss deadlines for alternative services.

Lawsuits in Smalls Claims Court

You have 14 days to respond (file an answer) if you have been sued in a Justice of the Peace Court in Texas and received a summons in person. If the 14th day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday, your answer is due on the next day that is not the weekend or a legal holiday. If the 14th day falls on a day where the Court closes before 5:00 p.m., your answer must be filed on the Court’s next business day.

Lawsuits in County Court or District Court

The deadline for responding to a lawsuit in a District Court or County Court is a little more complicated. Every Texas attorney you meet can most likely recite the EXACT rule to you. But that same attorney really has to think about how to make it work. The rule goes like this: The Defendant must file its answer by 10:00 a.m. on the first Monday after the expiration of 20 days from the date the Defendant was served with process. Simply put, count 20 days from when you are served and file your answer the following Monday by 10:00 a.m. You can file your answer the next business day if the Monday falls on a legal holiday. If the 20th day is a Monday, your answer is due on the next Monday.

Contents of an Answer

The basic answer contains a general denial. A case can be won or lost, however, on the issue of whether or not you include verified denials and affirmative defenses and answer requests for admissions. This is where an experienced attorney can be the difference between a costly judgment or a positive outcome.

General Denial

Every answer should include a “general denial.” This a simple paragraph where you deny every single allegation alleged in the Plaintiff’s petition.

Verified Denial

A verified denial must be specifically pleaded and “verified” by a sworn affidavit based on personal knowledge. A verified denial can be used in a number of instance such as the credit card company sued you instead of your spouse or you are being sued by the wrong company.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses also must be exactly pleaded. These are independent reasons why the Plaintiff should not prevail. If an affirmative defense is successful, you can avoid a judgment even if the Plaintiff’s facts are true!

Requests for Admissions

Requests for Admissions are where many parties “win” their cases. They will ask you a number of basic questions. Once you fail to answer these requests, they will file a “Motion for Summary Judgment” and get a judgment based upon your failure to respond. It is a tricky but perfectly legal and proper way to obtain a judgment. A seasoned attorney can help you avoid this mistake!

Contact Us

Avoid the pitfalls described above. Contact our office today to ensure you have the representation you deserve to take on your lawsuit.