September 19th, 2022

Filing A Counterclaim: Is It Always A Good Idea?

No matter the circumstances, being hit with a lawsuit can be overwhelming and stressful. Defendants who believe they’re in the right often jump into filing a counterclaim without understanding possible repercussions. At Gross McGinley, LLP our civil litigation attorneys in Allentown understand that turning the tables on someone suing you may feel like vindication in the moment, but it’s critical to have an experienced professional evaluate your case before making this important decision.

Don’t File A Counterclaim To Prove A Point

Whether it’s a business relationship that’s gone sour or you’re dealing with a contentious divorce, it’s normal to be angry or emotional when someone files a lawsuit against you. However, it’s important to take a step back and consult with a litigation attorney who can provide an objective perspective. A lawyer can evaluate the facts and evidence surrounding your case and determine whether a counterclaim could be of benefit. In some cases, filing a separate action makes more practical sense.

If you immediately file a counterclaim, you may lose your right to litigate the issue in the future and end up paying a lot more in attorneys’ fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit. However, if a civil lawyer determines that you do have grounds for a counterclaim, it can put you on equal footing with the plaintiff. If each party brings a claim against the other, they both have something more to lose than just legal fees and may give you leverage to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement without a lengthy court battle.

Compulsory Vs. Permissive Counterclaims

Rule 13 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs counterclaims in federal court and distinguishes between mandatory and permissive counterclaims. For example, if you’re sued for breach of contract and you believe the plaintiff breached the same contract first, you may want to file a counterclaim. This would be considered a compulsory counterclaim, which means it arises from the same issue or set of facts the plaintiff has presented and generally must be raised within the existing suit and not as a separate suit.

To determine whether a counterclaim is compulsory, the judge may ask whether the same evidence and issues of law and fact are relevant to both the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant’s counterclaim. If you attempt to bring a counterclaim regarding a matter unrelated to the issue at hand but involving the same parties, it may be dismissed with prejudice and you won’t be able to litigate it in another court, or it be clouded by the original claim such that you lose an advantage. The lawyers at Gross McGinley, LLP are well-versed in handling cases involving both state and federal litigation and can assist in evaluating the best forum to address your particular dispute.

How A Civil Litigation Attorney Can Help

Whether the lawsuit you’re facing involves business or personal matters, understanding the nuances of civil law can be challenging. If you’ve been served with a complaint, it’s important to evaluate all your options before filing a response and possibly asserting a counterclaim. In Pennsylvania, you typically have about 30 days to respond to the complaint after it is served. For federal litigation, the deadline is usually 21 days. That’s why it’s critical to seek the assistance of an experienced civil litigation attorney as soon as you receive a complaint. A lawyer can review the complaint and recommend a course of action, which may include:

  • Negotiating a resolution out of court through mediation or arbitration
  • Filing an answer
  • Filing a motion to dismiss
  • Filing a counterclaim

Whatever you do, if you’re served with a lawsuit, don’t ignore it. Failing to respond to a complaint usually results in the court awarding a default judgment to the plaintiff. It can be challenging to convince the court to set aside a default judgment, and a judgment can have a significant impact on your financial stability. Judgment enforcement can be carried out in several ways, including wage garnishment (in certain cases) and attaching your bank accounts. Seeking the counsel of a civil litigation attorney can save you money in the long run, help to ensure your rights are protected, and give you the best chance for success if a counterclaim is warranted.

Contact A Civil Litigation Attorney In Allentown, PA

The civil litigation attorneys at Gross McGinley, LLP are committed to protecting your interests and helping you understand your rights. For more than 40 years, we’ve provided forward-thinking, client-focused legal representation to clients in Allentown, PA, and beyond. To schedule a consultation with a civil litigation attorney in Pennsylvania, contact us online or call us at 610-820-5450 today.

The content found in this resource is for informational reference use only and is not considered legal advice. Laws at all levels of government change frequently and the information found here may be or become outdated. It is recommended to consult your attorney for the most up-to-date information regarding current laws and legal matters.