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A Defendant Has Twenty Days to Respond After Service of the Complaint

Interviewer: If someone files a lawsuit against another part, how long does the other person have to respond to the claim?

Robert Cummings: So, you are absolutely right that the filing is what initiates the case. Under the rules, first-off for litigants, and this is the first misstep, you have to know which court you are in. If you were sued in state court, you then have the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure that apply. If, however, you were sued in federal court, you have the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that apply. As a general matter, the defendant has twenty days to respond after service of the complaint. But, there are a lot of considerations that go into, as the defendant, how you should handle that complaint and your response. For example, if you are sued in the state court, there may be grounds to what is called “remove” that complaint to federal court. Not to go into too much detail, but there are a lot of ways to get that complaint into federal court. Depending on the litigants, depending on what judge you drew in state court, depending on the subject matter, you might want to be in federal court.

The Choice to Either Litigate or to File a Motion to Dismiss Has to Be Made Within the 20 Day Time Limit

The second consideration is whether the complaint states a claim. Do you want to just answer the complaint and go through litigation? Or, do you think the complaint is so absurd or inadequate that you do not think a response is justified? If the latter, you can file a motion to dismiss. The decision of whether to answer or move to dismiss, however, must be made within that 20-day period.

Attorneys are Mostly Amenable to Working With Each Other and May Have the Time Period Extended by Mutual Consent

That being said, attorneys routinely grant extensions to one another depending upon the circumstances, so the 20-day time period can be pushed out if agreed upon. So, the twenty-day deadline is not a hard and fast rule. Indeed, even if you blow through the deadline, the other side has to take additional steps to go to the court, seek to enter a default, and enter a judgment against you. But, courts, for the most part, are loath to enter defaults. They would much rather have the case decided on the merits. So, as a general matter, it is 20 days to respond to a complaint, but there are a lot of considerations that go into that 20 days period.

Common Types of Civil Law Cases in the State of Utah

Interviewer: What’s the most common type of civil law case that you work with?

Robert Cummings: That is hard to say because a majority of my practice was representing Fortune 500 companies, international accounting firms and high net worth clients, such as United Online, Samsung, Wells Fargo, KPMG, etc. So, those were business disputes. My old law firm represented Energy Solutions in what is known as a “going private transaction”, where a group of investors sought to purchase all of Energy Solutions’ stock to ultimately convert the company from a publicly traded company to being a privately held company.

Aside from Business Disputes, Employment Disputes, Securities Cases and Personal Injury Cases are other Common Civil Law Cases

In this last year, I have had some employment disputes, employees disgruntled with their prior employers. I have had a securities case, in federal court, representing a defendant, which is similar to my prior experience. Then, a lot of my practice is dealing with businesses and helping them navigate various disputes, either debts outstanding, governmental inquiries, or even just litigation over various subject matters, breaches of contract, breaches of fiduciary duties, stuff of that nature, and then also assisting individual clients. I have quite a few cases right now in assisting clients with injuries and navigating the insurance process and the claims process.