Documents and Papers from a Court : Complaint and Summons

What is a Complaint?
A Complaint is the document filed with the court by the plaintiff that starts the lawsuit. The Complaint must have the claim or list of claims that the plaintiff makes against the defendant. Each statement in a Complaint should be a short, numbered sentence. The numbered statements should include at least the following:

  1. name and address of the party filing the complaint;

  2. name and address of the defendant;

  3. why the case is being brought in the particular court (see definition for (Venue);

  4. a few brief statements of the facts related to the claim(s), including dates and places;

  5. the legal theory that the claims are based on (negligence, breach of contract, debt owed, etc.); and

  6. a statement demanding the judgment that you seek.

What is a Summons?
The Summons is a document that comes from the court along with a copy of the Complaint. The Summons lists the names and addresses of the court and the parties, and it includes the date that the defendant must respond to the complaint or be in default. The defendant’s response is called an Answer.

What is an Answer?
If you receive a Summons and Complaint, you must file an Answer within 28 days after you receive the Summons and Complaint.

The Answer should contain very short statements, each numbered separately. Each statement should respond to one of the numbered statements contained in the Complaint. For each numbered paragraph in the Complaint, each responding statement should state one of the following:

  1. The allegation(s) contained in paragraph 1 of the Complaint is denied.

  2. The allegation(s) contained in paragraph 1 of the Complaint is admitted.

  3. The defendant is without sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth of the allegation(s) set forth in paragraph 1 of the Complaint.

What is an affidavit?
An affidavit is a written declaration made under oath; a written statement sworn to be true before someone legally authorized to administer an oath.

What are Defenses?
Certain defenses must be specifically set forth in the Answer or in a Motion to Dismiss or they are waived. These defenses are:

  1. Lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant;

  2. Improper venue;

  3. Insufficiency of process or service of process.

The defendant may also include the following defenses in the Answer:

  1. Failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted;

  2. Failure to join parties under Civil Rule 19 or Civil Rule 19.1;

  3. Lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The following defenses must be stated specifically, if they apply:

  1. Accord and satisfaction;

  2. Arbitration and award;

  3. Assumption of the risk;

  4. Contributory negligence;

  5. Discharge in bankruptcy;

  6. Duress;

  7. Estoppel;

  8. Failure of consideration;

  9. Want of consideration for a negotiable instrument;

  10. Fraud;

  11. Illegality;

  12. Injury by a fellow servant;

  13. Laches;

  14. License;

  15. Payment;

  16. Release;

  17. Res Judicata;

  18. Statute of Frauds;

  19. Statute of Limitations;

  20. Waiver;

  21. Any other matter constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense.


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This content was created by the Ohio State Bar Foundation's 2006 Fellows Class - Keys to the Courtroom Project.

See also the Forms & Education tab in this section for more information.

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