This article is part of our continuing series on the litigation process in Oregon, looking specifically at issues in the negligence and personal injury lawsuit.
In a previous article, we discussed the complaint, which is the document that starts a civil lawsuit in the State of Oregon. This article discusses the first appearance of the defendant, which could be an answer, or a motion asking the court to either dismiss the case, or order the plaintiff to make changes in the complaint.
After the complaint is properly served upon the defendant, the defendant typically has 30 days from the date he or she was served to file an answer or otherwise appear in response to the complaint. Generally, the defendant has a couple of options in responding to a complaint.
If the complaint is in proper order, then the defendant will probably file an "answer." An answer is just that; it is a response to each and every allegation in the complaint. The answer will go through each paragraph, and State whether or not the defendant admits to the allegations in that paragraph or denies the allegations in that paragraph. In some cases, the defendant may not have enough information to either deny or admit an allegation, and the rules allow such a response.
In some cases, the defendant may argue that the allegations in the complaint, even if true, are not sufficient to state a claim recognized by Oregon law. If so, the defendant will file a Motion to Dismiss. This is often referred to as a Rule 21 Motion. The judge will then decide, after each party's in its written arguments, whether or not the complaint actually states a claim recognized in the State of Oregon.
The defendant may decide to file other types of Rule 21 Motions, including a motion to strike certain allegations from the complaint, or a motion asking the court to order the plaintiff to be more definite and certain about the allegations in the complaint.
Many times, the attorneys are able to resolve any issues regarding the allegations in the complaint without the need for Rule 21 motions. However, in certain cases, a court will be called upon to resolve any disagreements.
Finally, an answer can also include "affirmative defenses." For example, a defendant may feel that the plaintiff was partially at fault in causing his or her injuries, and may allege comparative fault. In other cases, the defendant may argue that the defendant was not properly served, or that the claim was not filed within the statute of limitations. Sometimes, the defendant may decide to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff, which is the same as a complaint seeking relief from the defendant.
There are other possible responses to a complaint, but these are the most common. If you have questions about civil litigation in Oregon, call us at 503-325-8600. We have years of experience litigating in Oregon courts, and can likely answer your question.