Counterclaim – a cause of action within the defendant’s answer which may have been used to sue the plaintiff in a separate action; used in opposition to or as a setoff against the plaintiff ’s claim

     Page 5 of 7 on the official form used for the “Defendant’s Answer” contains a section which addresses the counterclaim.  No additional paperwork is required in the initial pleading by the defendant in order to assert the counterclaim.

[kown • ter • klame]

n. (18c)

1. A cause of action on which a defendant in a lawsuit might have sued the plaintiff in a separate action.  Such a cause of action, stated in a separate division of a defendant’s answer, is a counterclaim.  See setoff.  Also see cross-action; crossclaim; crosscomplaint. [1]

1. A claim for relief asserted against an opposing party after an original claim has been made; especially a defendant’s claim in opposition to or as a setoff against the plaintiff ’s claim. — aka counteraction; countersuit; cross-demand. — counterclaim, vb. — counterclaimant, n. [2]

Legal Terms pertaining to Counterclaims:

setoff (offset) – a counter demand which a defendant holds against a plaintiff, arising out of a separate transaction than the plaintiff’s cause of action, which serves to counterbalance the amount otherwise owed.

recoupment – reduction of a plaintiff’s damages because of a demand by the defendant arising out of the same transaction (as opposed to a different transaction, which is a setoff).

Types of Counterclaims:

Compulsory Counterclaim – if a defendant fails to assert a compulsory counterclaim in the original action, that claim may not be brought in a later, separate action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(a). [2]

Permissive Counterclaim – does not arise out of the same subject matter as the opposing party’s claim or involves third parties over which the court does not have jurisdiction, and may be brought in a later. separate action. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(b). [2]


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[1]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition by Jack Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.

[2]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4


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