If you are being sued in small claims, you may
Negotiate a settlement; mediate the dispute
Defend your side of the case in court;
File a countersuit;
Claim the summons was not served properly;
Ignore the complaint;
Participate in a Resolution Conference.
Attempt to Negotiate a Settlement
Both parties in a dispute have the option of negotiating a settlement prior to going to court. You may attempt to negotiate on your own or seek the assistance of a mediator. There are many advantages to mediation. For more information, see Mediation.
File a Notice of Intention to Defend
If you choose to defend yourself, you must file the Notice of Intention to Defend, appearing on the bottom half of the summons. The Notice should be cut at the perforated line and returned to the court address listed at the top of the summons. The Notice of Intention to Defend includes space for you to explain why you should not be required to pay the money the plaintiff claims you owe. You should be prepared to defend this (and other reasons) in court during the trial. Make sure you bring your exhibits and evidence.
Defendants have 15 days from the date that they receive the summons to file this notice with the court (out-of-state defendants and those with resident agents have 60 days to file the notice). By filing the notice found at the bottom of the summons, the defendant is letting the court know that he or she plans to argue that the plaintiff is not entitled to the damages being claimed.
File a Countersuit
You may respond to a lawsuit by filing one of your own. If filed in the same action, what would otherwise be called the defendant’s complaint is called a “counterclaim.”
A counterclaim is basically a defendant’s way of saying “I don’t owe you money. You owe me money.” You must be able to prove that your claim is right and that the plaintiff's claim is not.
Claim the notification was not served legally
A summons or complaint must be legally served. Defendants may claim they were not properly served with the Complaint and Summons in one of two ways: (1) by filing a pre-trial request that the case be dismissed for improper service; or (2) by making the argument at the trial. In either case, the trial is postponed, and the plaintiff may have to re-serve a new summons.
Ignore the Complaint and Summons
The judge may offer a judgment against you. If this is the case, the court will simply send you a notice confirming the date on which the judgment was entered, the amount of the judgment, and any additional amounts found to be due from the defendant such as court costs or interest. A judge also may require the plaintiff to present the case against you. If the judge decides that the plaintiff has not presented enough proof against you, the judge may decide to schedule a new trial.
Resolution Conference (Montgomery and Prince George's Counties only)
For information on resolution conferences, please see Resolution Conference.