Filing an answer to a civil complaint in California is the topic of this blog post. There are two types of civil complaints in California, unverified and verified. Most complaints are unverified unless a particular statute or code provides otherwise, although any complaint may be verified at the option of the plaintiff.
If a complaint is verified the answer must be verified. Also any answer to a complaint filed by a governmental entity must be verified. See Code of Civil Procedure § 446. Note that this rule only applies to unlimited civil cases, where the demand of the complaint exceeds $25,000.00.
A verified answer must admit or deny each and every paragraph of the complaint, and must also contain a verification signed by the defendant or defendants stating that they have read the answer and everything contained therein is true and correct to the best of their knowledge. The verification must be signed under penalty of perjury. Note that failure to file a verified answer when one is required will subject the answer to a motion to strike on the grounds that it is not verified.
As stated earlier, defendant must admit or deny each and every paragraph of the complaint. Admissions or denials generally consist of the following:
A. Defendant denies the allegations of paragraph 1. (example only).
B. Defendant admits the allegations of paragraph 2. (example only).
C. Defendant has no information or belief that the allegations of paragraph 3 are true so defendant denies them. (example only).
Any allegations of the complaint that are not specifically denied are deemed admitted.
An unverified complaint may be answered by a general denial in which the defendant(s) generally deny all of the allegations of the complaint.
An answer should also contain specific affirmative defenses tailored to the individual case. An answer that contains nothing but “boilerplate” affirmative defenses is vulnerable to a demurrer on the grounds that the answer fails to state facts sufficient to state any defenses to the complaint.
In FPI Development, Inc vs. A1 Nakashima, (1991) 231 Cal.App.3d 367, 384, the court held that the affirmative defenses pled in an answer to a complaint must be pled in the same fashion, and with the same specificity, as a cause of action in a complaint. Because conclusory allegations are not admitted by demurrer, and because conclusory allegations have no pleading value, conclusory and “boilerplate” affirmative defenses are insufficient.
An answer’s “failure to state facts sufficient to constitute a defense” may be raised at any time (i.e., no waiver). But the other grounds for challenging the sufficiency of the answer must be raised by demurrer, or are automatically waived. See Code of Civil Procedure § 430.80(b).
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Attorneys or parties in California who wish to view a portion of a sample answer to a verified complaint for sale by the author please see below.
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The author of this article, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.
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