Responding to a Breach of Contract Lawsuit
When a lawsuit is started against you, the Plaintiff will have you served with a Summons and Complaint. These documents formally notify you that a lawsuit has been initiated, and what the lawsuit is about.
You have three basic options once you are sued:
1. Respond to the lawsuit. If you believe you have a valid legal defense to this lawsuit and wish to defend yourself, you will need to file a response to the lawsuit. There are many methods for responding to this type of lawsuit. One common method is to file an Answer. This Guide provides information about filing an Answer to a Breach of Contract case. For more information about your other responsive options, see the Responding to a Lawsuit guide available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/responding-lawsuit.aspx.
2. Allow the plaintiff to obtain a default judgment. Many people who do not have a valid legal defense to this type of case choose not to respond. (Note: not having the money to make payments is NOT a valid legal defense! See the "Affirmative Defenses" guide available on our website at http://www.saclaw.org/pages/affirmative-defenses.aspx). If you do not respond to the lawsuit, the other party may get a default judgment against you. This means that the other party wins, and the court will not consider anything you have to say. Although this may sound bad, for many people it is the quickest, least expensive way to resolve the case.
3. Try to negotiate a settlement. You can attempt negotiations at any time during your case. Your negotiations do not automatically stop the lawsuit. The other party can proceed with a default judgment against you unless you file a response. If you attempt negotiations prior to filing a response, you may want to ask the other party for additional time to reply to the lawsuit, in case your negotiations fall through. Be sure any agreement you reach with the other party about an extension of time to respond is in writing.
For more information to help you make this decision, see the "Being Sued" page from the California Courts Self Help Website at http://courts.ca.gov/1322.htm, or download this Guide from the link below.
The Judicial Council forms commonly used in this procedure are:
In addition, customizable templates for some commonly used non-Judicial Council forms may be downloaded from these links:
Click here to download this Guide, with step-by-step instructions, including sample forms.
updated 11/13 mpj