Pleading is the general term for the papers that set out the plaintiff’s
allegations and the defendant’s defenses. These pleadings go by different
names in different courts. In some courts, the plaintiff’s pleading is called the
complaint and the defendant’s is the
answer. In others they are original
petition and answer.
It is this initial pleading that the plaintiff must have served on the defendant.
The defendant has a certain amount of time (frequently 20 days) to file a reply
to the initial pleading. If the defendant has been properly served and fails to
file the reply on time, the plaintiff may ask the court to rule in his or her favor
as a matter of law. In most cases, the court will allow the defendant to file
after the deadline but frequently requires the payment of a fine to cover the
cost of the delay to the plaintiff. Since the court is not required to accept late
filings, it is imperative that the plaintiff’s allegations be answered on time.