As a plaintiff starting a lawsuit, you are on the offensive and ready to push forward into battle.

But, that can sometimes change when the defendant files a counterclaim against you.  Now, you are placed (to some extent) on the defensive.  It is important to be prepared for such a turn of events.

Take a deep breath.  Some defense attorneys always file a counterclaim, even if their claim is shakey, because they know that it can sometimes throw a plaintiff off their game.  Counterclaims are especially common when there is a contract dispute between two businesses, where each claim that the other breached.  When faced with a counterclaim, it is important to get passed the initial emotional reaction of “how could they,” and really look at whether there is any merit to their claim.  Make sure to work immediately with your attorney to respond.  If you started the lawsuit on your own, without an attorney, now would be a good time to get an attorney as quickly as possible to help you navigate the added complexities of the suit.

Don’t get distracted.  When faced with a counterclaim, where the defendant is accusing you of wrongdoing, it is easy to get distracted and lose focus from preparing your case against them.  If you spend too much time and concentration on defending yourself, you run the risk of not being as prepared to handle your case-in-chief against them.  You do have to pay some attention to the counterclaim, and you have to file a response to it prior to the deadline.  But, make sure to keep perspective and keep an appropriate focus on your case against them. 

You are now committed.  One impact of a counterclaim is that you no longer have an easy way out of the case.  If you get down the road and happen to decide that it was no longer worth the time and effort to pursue the lawsuit, or if you determine that your case is not as strong as you once thought, you can no longer simply dismiss the lawsuit and move on with your life.  Even if you were to decide to dismiss your lawsuit against the defendant, you would still be on the hook to defend yourself against the counterclaim they have file.  This means that you will either need to keep pressing on with your case or you will need to get the defendant to agree to dismiss the case as well before you are out of it.

Counterclaims add a layer of complexity to any lawsuit, and you are now forced to respond on some level to those allegations.  But it is important to not lose focus on your case in chief.  If you have a lawsuit against another individual or business, or the other side has filed a counterclaim, talk to the experienced trial attorneys of Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, in our Omaha, Sioux City, or Sioux Falls offices.


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