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Category: Lawsuit Mechanics

What is an Answer?

The Answer addresses the allegations contained in the Complaint, paragraph-by-paragraph and either denies them or agrees to them. 

(1) The pleading containing the formal response to a complaint, admitting or denying the alleged claims. (2) A response to the Complaint in which the Defendant either admits or denies the allegations made by the Plaintiff. (3) A reply by the party being sued to the allegations made in the Complaint. 

File and Serve the Answer within 20 Days of Service of the Summons and Complaint: 

  • Under CR 12(a), an Answer must be served within twenty (20) days after service of the Summons and Complaint. 
  • If the Summons was served outside the state of Washington, the time is extended to sixty (60) days after service of the Summons and Complaint. 
  • If the service was made by publication, the time limit is sixty (60) days from the date of the first publication. 

Failure to File and Serve a timely Answer risks the entry of a Default Judgment. Default Judgments occur without notice to the Defendant and they award the Plaintiff everything they asked for in the Complaint. 

State Your Defenses: 

  • CR 8(b) provides that a Defendant’s Answer to a Plaintiff’s Complaint shall state any defenses to each claim. 
  • The defenses must be set forth in short and plain terms. 
  • CR 12(b) provides that certain defenses may be asserted either in the Answer or by motion prior to serving an Answer. 

If Allegations are Not Specifically Denied Then They are Deemed Admitted: 

  • CR 8(b) and CR 8(d) contemplate that the denial of an allegation in a pleading (such as an Answer) shall be made based on the knowledge of the Defendant, and that the allegations will be deemed admitted unless they are denied. 
  • The Defendant may specifically deny a designated allegation. For example: Defendant denies the allegations set out in paragraph no. 1 of the complaint. 
  • The Defendant may also generally deny all of the allegations, except those allegations as (s)he expressly admits. For example: Defendant___________________[name] answers the plaintiff _____________________[name]’s complaint as follows: Defendant____________________[name] denies the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint in their entirety. 

Deny Allegations That You Do Not Have Enough Information to Admit: 

  • It is recognized that a Defendant, at least at the time (s)he is required to Answer, may not know whether a particular allegation is true or not. 
  • CR 8(b), therefore, permits the Defendant to state that they have no information or beliefs sufficient to Answer, and on that basis deny the allegation. 
  • For example: Defendant denies for lack of sufficient information, knowledge and belief the allegations set out in paragraph no. 3 of the complaint. 


What is a Notice of Appearance?

A Notice of Appearance is a party’s formal entry into a lawsuit. The term is normally associated with the Defendant, who appears after being served with the Summons and Complaint. 

The Notice of Appearance is a pleading that is filed with the Court, stating that the defendant is appearing on their own behalf or represented by an attorney. 

By filing and serving a Notice of Appearance, a Defendant becomes entitled to notice of all subsequent proceedings. RCW 4.28.210. 

By contrast, if the Defendant fails to file and serve a Notice of Appearance OR an Answer, the case may proceed against the Defendant without notice of subsequent proceedings, ultimately resulting in the entry of a Default Judgment against the Defendant, awarding the Plaintiff everything they asked for in their Complaint. 

A Defendant may appear by filing and serving a written Notice of Appearance, without immediately serving an Answer. RCW 4.28.210. This is the most common means of appearing and it gives the Defendant time to research and draft a formal Answer without the risk of a Default Judgment. 

  • CR 4(a)(3) requires a Notice of Appearance to be in writing and signed by the Defendant or the Defendant’s Attorney. 
  • The Notice of Appearance must be served on the person whose name is signed on the Summons. 
  • You should make a record of the appearance by filing the Notice of Appearance, together with a Certificate of Service, in the Clerk’s Office. 

Appearance by Attorney: 

  • An attorney licensed to practice law in the state of Washington may appear on behalf of their client. RCW 2.44.010 and CR 70.1. 
  • Once an attorney has appeared on behalf of a party, service of pleadings and other papers must be made upon the attorney, rather than the client, unless the court orders otherwise. CR 5(b). 
  • Service on the attorney can properly be made until the lawyer has formally withdrawn from the case in the manner provided in CR 71. 

Pro Se Appearance: 

  • An adult natural person may prosecute or defend their own action pro se, without an attorney. 
  • A party appearing pro se is bound by the same rules of conduct and procedure as an attorney. 

Service of Answer is Appearance: 

  • Service of a formal Answer to the Complaint constitutes an appearance, even if the Answer is not preceded by a Notice of Appearance. RCW 4.28.210.