April 06, 2021
Summary: You can respond with your own answer to debt collection lawsuits in Florida. Learn how to file a Civil Answer with the Duval Clerk of Courts.
If you are a Florida resident and have been served a complaint and summons to a civil lawsuit, you are probably wondering what your next steps are. In Florida, a defendant must file an answer within 20 days of being served with a summons and complaint. Filing a response to the complaint and sending it on time prevents the court from entering a default judgment against you.
A default judgment allows the creditor to garnish your wages or apply lien to your property. The answer should state your defenses to the claims asserted in the complaint. Drafting your response is as simple as saying you admit, deny or lack knowledge as your response to any of the allegations set in the complaint.
You should also include any affirmative defenses you're planning to use against the plaintiff. If you are being sued for a debt owed, continue reading for information on filing your civil answer with the Duval Clerk of Courts.
Once a plaintiff starts a lawsuit, you are then served with a summons and complaint. The summons notifies you that you've been sued and requires you to respond to the lawsuit. A complaint outlines the reason and basis for the suit.
The first step is to read the petition or complaint to determine why you've been sued. Next, you need to provide a response to each allegation in the complaint. The allegations are arranged in numbered paragraphs, and you should number the answers the same way. All the answers must be in writing and filed with the Clerk of Court at Duval County.
All you need to do is write whether you agree or disagree with the statements. If you don't agree with some statements, you don't have to provide the reason. Here are examples of common responses:
Florida law states that any denial must meet the substance of the allegation. This means that if the defendant doesn't deny all the allegations, they must either deny all except those specifically admitted or deny designated allegations. The court deems allegations not denied as admitted.
As highlighted earlier, state law allows you to raise affirmative defenses in your answer. This is not a denial of facts but an acknowledgment of new issues that defeat the plaintiff's claim.
Florida's state law also requires the defendant to be a little more specific if using affirmative defenses associated with fraud or a mistake. If asserting that the plaintiff lacks the capacity to sue you, you must include supporting documents or other particulars within your knowledge.
Be sure to assert all applicable defenses when drafting the answer regardless of whether they're factual because, according to Florida's state law Rule 1.140 (h), the court assumes a party has waived all defenses not presented in the answer.
If asked to provide facts for your defenses, you can argue that some defenses were raised to avoid waiver, and discovery is in progress. This strategy, however, could cause the court to dismiss or strike the defense because Florida statutes authorize sanctions against parties filing affirmative defenses without legal or factual proof. However, you can seek permission to amend the defense to avoid the sanction.
In the caption of the answer form, you must include the following information:
Be sure to copy this information carefully from the summons, as incorrect information may lead to a rejection of your filing. If you aren't sure whether you've filled in the right information, ask the Clerk of Court's office to confirm the details of the initial filings.
Next, you want to create numbered paragraphs to match the amount in the complaint. You will then Answer each complaint, for example.
Let's say there are five allegations in the complaint. Your answer to the claims may look like this.
Next, you will want to include your affirmative defenses.
At the end of the answer form, is another section called the 'certificate of service.' This part requires you to state how you'll send a copy to the plaintiff. You can write the plaintiff's name and address or that of their attorney. Be sure to indicate the date you mailed the copy, as well as the method you used to deliver it.
You must make two copies of the answer: you keep one copy, send the other to the plaintiff. The original document is what you file with the Duval Clerk of Court.
The court then sends a notice indicating when the case is scheduled for a hearing that you must attend.
You must also be prepared to explain your position on the issue, dress appropriately, and arrive on time.
A defendant should file a motion to dismiss after filing an answer with the court based on the following grounds:
Some attorneys may file a motion to dismiss in a bid to get the entire complaint dismissed or to delay the process. The most common reason for filing a motion to dismiss is 'failure to state the cause of action.' According to Florida state laws, the pleader/plaintiff must state a cause of action with short and plain jurisdiction grounds. Otherwise, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case.
If the court confirms a motion to dismiss the case, it has deemed the allegations contained in the complaint true and doesn't examine beyond this. However, the court isn't obliged to accept claims that aren't consistent with the law.
Defendants filing pro se or without an attorney can e-file or mail their document to the Duval Clerk of Court.
If you want to e-file, you will do so here.
If you chose to mail your document, you can do so here:
Duval County Clerk of Courts
Attn: CIRCUIT CIVIL DEPARTMENT
501 West Adams Street, Room 1209
Jacksonville, FL 32202
Duval County Clerk of Courts
Attn: COUNTY CIVIL DEPARTMENT
501 West Adams Street, Room 1046
This detailed guide should help you file a civil answer with the Duval Clerk of Courts in Florida. Be sure to include all your defenses as it gives you a better chance of successfully pleading your case.
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.
How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.
"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James
Here's a list of guides for other states.
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