You are here

How to Defend Against a Lawsuit

I have been sued in a civil case, what do I do?


If you have received a complaint and summons in the mail then you have been sued and you are a defendant.  The complaint contains the claims against you. The summons contains the instructions for filing an answer to the Complaint.

You have 28 days from the date you receive the complaint and summons to file a written answer or other pleading with the court. If you do not file a reply in time, the plaintiff may file a motion for default judgment.  This motion asks the judge to rule in the plaintiff’s favor as the defendant(s) are not opposing their claims.

If you respond within 28 days, your case will be assigned to a judge.  If all parties are represented by an attorney, the judge will conduct a hearing by telephone conference to try to settle the matter or set up a trial schedule.  If either party does not have a lawyer, all parties will be required to appear in court for a case management conference or pretrial in an effort to settle the case or set up a trial schedule.

If you do not appear in court on the dates assigned by the judge, then you risk losing the case. 

Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

If you decide not to dispute the amount claimed by the plaintiff in your reply to the complaint, the plaintiff can file a motion for judgment on the pleadings requesting that a judgment in his or her favor for the amount claimed without a trial.  The defendant has 14 days to respond in writing to the motion.  If the judge finds that the Defendant’s answer alone establishes that the money is owed, the judge will grant judgment without a hearing or trial.

Motion for Summary Judgment

VideoAny party can file a motion for summary judgment. By filing a motion for summary judgment, the moving party (the party bringing the motion) attempts to persuade the court, through affidavit and other written evidence, that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial because the evidence makes the trial outcome obvious.

The opposing party has 30 days to respond to the motion for summary judgment.  If the judge grants the motion, the winning party obtains a judgment and the case does not go to trial.

What if I am a defendant but I have a claim against someone else?

(Counterclaims, Cross-Claims, and Third-Party Complaints)

If you are a defendant and have a claim against the plaintiff, another defendant in the case, or a party that is not currently in the case, you may file a counterclaim, a cross-claim, or a third-party complaint.

Counterclaims, cross-claims, and third-party complaints filed in the civil claims court are also limited to money damages of $15,000, not including court costs and interest.  Forms and instructions for completing the forms are available from the clerk of court and online at the Court Forms section of this site.  Counterclaims, cross-claims and third party complaints must be filed by the time the defendant’s answer is due, unless the judge grants additional time.

  • A counterclaim is a claim brought by a defendant against a plaintiff. A fee is required with the filing of a counterclaim.
  • A cross-claim is a claim brought by one defendant against another defendant, or one plaintiff against another plaintiff. A fee is required with the filing of a cross-claim.
  • A third-party complaint is a claim brought by the defendant against a new party who was not named in the original complaint. A fee  is required with the filing of a third-party complaint.

To learn more, see the Ohio Legal Services website for information about counterclaims, cross-claims and third-party claims.

Virtual Assistant

How to Defend