March 02, 2017 Articles

Responding to a Complaint in Federal Court: Answer or Motion?

By Chelsea J. Glynn and Heather Lee

Your client has been sued in federal court. When you receive the complaint, your initial thought may be to prepare an answer, admitting or denying the allegations, automatically assuming you will subsequently conduct discovery and then look to settle the case. However, there are a number of important things to consider before responding, because the way you respond could change the entire course and outcome of the case. For instance, imagine that instead of filing an answer, you successfully moved to dismiss part of the plaintiff’s claim. This, in turn, significantly reduced the amount of discovery needed and therefore reduced not only your client’s, but the opposing plaintiff’s, attorney fees and costs. As a result, the plaintiff was willing to settle for a lower amount, and the case was resolved early on. Significant time and costs were saved for everyone. You can imagine how the case could have taken a much different course had you filed an answer instead.

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