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The Defendant's Answer

If the plaintiff's complaint is the first notice that the defendant has of the plaintiff's claim, the defendant's attorney will call the plaintiff's attorney before filing the answer. Although it is always best to discuss resolving claims before a lawsuit is filed, it is never too late to discuss the merits of the claim. After discussing the claim with the plaintiff's attorney, the defendant must file an answer to the complaint. The answer tells the court in what ways the plaintiff's prima facie case is defective and to assert any affirmative defenses. This is also the time to object if the case has been brought in the wrong court.

In some states, the defendant may file a denial of all of the plaintiff's allegations without addressing the specific issues raised by the plaintiff. This is called a general denial. The defendant may also deny the plaintiff's allegations specifically. The advantage of specifically addressing the plaintiff's allegations is that it personalizes the case for the judge. If the defendant is in the right, it is better for the judge to see the facts of the case. For example, assume that the defendant has been sued solely because his name appears on the plaintiff's medical records. If the defendant did not treat the patient and did not have any legal duties to the patient, then it is better to explain this than to file a general denial. It is frustrating for both the plaintiff's attorney and the defendant physician to fight a lawsuit for years, only to find at deposition that this physician was not involved in the patient's care.


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