Answer: Everything You Need to Know

Answer in a civil case is the defendant's written response to the plaintiff's complaint and it can also be a formal response to allegations made in a complaint.3 min read

Civil Law

  1. In a civil case, the defendant's written response to the plaintiff's complaint. It must be filed within a specified period of time, and it either admits to or (more typically) denies the factual or legal basis for liability.
  2. A formal response to allegations made in a complaint (or petition). Normally, the answer either admits or denies the allegations, although some states allow an answer to state a lack of knowledge as to whether a particular allegation is true or false. If the defendant fails to file an answer, the plaintiff usually wins by default. In a divorce, failure to file an answer may result in a default divorce.

Example: X is sued for paternity by his former lover, Y. X will be served with a complaint (or petition) containing the allegation that Y believes he is the father of her child. He must answer within a certain period of time (usually 20-30 days) or lose by default. In his answer, X must either admit or deny each of the complaint's allegations. In some states, X may respond that he doesn't know whether or not an allegation is true.

Pleading In Equity

A defence in writing made by a defendant, to the charges contained in a bill or information, filed by the plaintiff against him in a court of equity.

The word answer involves a double sense; it is one thing when it simply replies to a question, another when it meets a charge; the answer in equity includes both senses, and may be divided into an examination and a defence.

  • In that part which consists of an examination, a direct and full answer, or reply, must in general be given to every question asked.
  • In that part which consists of a defence, the defendant must state his, case distinctly; but is not required to give information respecting the proofs that are to maintain it.

As a defendant is called by a bill or information to make a discovery of the several charges it contains, he must do so, unless he is protected either by a demurrer a plea or disclaimer. It may be laid down as an invariable rule, that whatever part of a bill or information is not covered by one of these, must be defended by answer.


In form, it usually begins:

  1. With its title, specifying which of the defendants it is the answer of, and the names of the plaintiffs in the cause in which it is filed as answer.
  2. It reserves to the defendant all the advantages which might be taken by exception to the bill.
  3. The substance of the answer, according to the defendant's knowledge, remembrance, information and belief, then follows, in which the matter of the bill, with the interrogatories founded thereon, are answered, one after the other, together with such additional matter as the defendant thinks necessary to bring forward in his, defence, either for the purpose of qualifying, or adding to, the case made by the bill, or to state a new case on his own behalf.
  4. This is followed by a general traverse or denial of all unlawful combinations charged in the bill, and of all other matters therein contained.
  5. The answer is always upon oath or affirmation, except in the case of a corporation, in which case it is under the corporate seal.


In substance, the answer ought to contain:

  1. A statement of facts and not arguments.
  2. A confession and avoidance, or traverse and denial of the material parts of the bill.
  3. Its language ought to be direct and without evasion.


The declaration of a fact by a witness after a question has been put asking for it.

If a witness unexpectedly state facts against the interest of the party calling him, other witnesses may be called by the same party, to disprove those facts. But the party calling a witness cannot discredit him, by calling witnesses to prove his bad character for truth and veracity, or by proving that he has made statements out of court contrary to what he has sworn on the trial; for the production of the witness is virtually an assertion by the party producing him, that he is credible.

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