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Answering a Civil Action

IMPORTANT: In Minnesota, a civil action is started when the Summons and Complaint are served on the defendant, which can happen before a case is filed with the court and given a file number. If you were served with a Summons and Complaint and don't know what you should do, talk with a lawyer immediately to get advice. Court employees can provide general information on court rules and procedures, but are not allowed to give legal advice.

How to Respond to a Summons and Complaint

Common civil lawsuits involve claims that the defendant owes money for services or purchases, breached a contract or did something else to damage the party who started the lawsuit. The lawsuit may ask for a money judgment, return of property or an order requiring some action (called “specific performance”). If you were served with a Summons and Complaint, a lawsuit against you has started even if nothing has been filed with the Court.

The Summons states the amount of time the defendant has to respond. For most civil cases the defendant has 20 days to respond by serving a written Answer on the plaintiff. A phone call to the plaintiff or plaintiff's attorney does not meet the requirements for an Answer under the rules. See Rule 5.02 of the MN Rules of Civil Procedure. The defendant can call the plaintiff's attorney to ask for more time to serve an Answer, but the plaintiff might not agree to more time.

Answer Forms PacketThis Answer Forms Packet includes a basic Answer Form and instructions with steps for completing the forms and filing them in court. The basic Answer Form is not intended to be a “do-it-yourself” form because civil cases are complicated. You are strongly encourged to first get legal advice on your case to decide what to write in your documents. Carefully read and follow the Instructions for the Answer Form.

The basic Answer Form should not be used to respond to a lawsuit in Conciliation Court, or for family, juvenile, criminal, probate or guardianship cases. Visit our MN Court Forms catalog to get answer forms for other case types, including:

A corporation or LLC must be represented by an attorney in District Court. This includes having an attorney sign court papers on behalf of the client corporation or LLC. Except: For cases limited to the Hennepin or Ramsey County Housing Court, Rule 603 of the MN General Rules of Practice may allow a principal (or agent) of the corporation or LLC to sign court papers or appear in court on behalf of the business entity. You should get legal advice if you have questions about this issue in your case.

Follow the Law and Court Rules

Anyone who handles a case in court (attorneys and self-represented parties) are required to know and follow the court rules. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse for failure to follow the rules. In some situations, not following the rules can result in a case being dismissed, or in fines being assessed. Lawyers regularly read and re-read the MN Court Rules. If you are representing yourself, you must also study and follow the rules. If you do not understand the rules or legal terms, or you need help deciding what to write in your forms, you should talk with a lawyer or do legal research at a law library. Law libraries are open to the public, and hours will vary.

Rights and Duties of self-represented parties Read Rights and Duties of Self-Represented Parties.

Rights and Duties of self-represented parties Read Laws, Rules & Resources for Civil Cases for a list of some of the rules that apply to civil actions.


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