If you want to defend yourself against the claims made by the other side, you should file a Notice of Your Intention to Defend.
You should file the notice within 15 days after the date you receive the Complaint. You have 60 days in certain circumstances such as you were served outside Maryland or your business received the Complaint through service on your resident agent. Read the Rule: MD Rule 3-307
You have two choices. You can either:
- Write a letter to the court and offer your side of the story. Include the information from the "caption" in your letter. The caption is the top of the Complaint form and it includes the names of the parties and the number assigned to your case by the court.
- Fill in the Notice to Defend section on the bottom half of the Summons and return it to the court.
TIP If you file a Notice of Intention to Defend, the court will notify the other side. You do not need to describe your side of the story but it may be helpful to do so. If you choose to respond, be brief but clear about your defense. State why the other side is wrong and mention the proof that you have.
There are many possible reasons why you would choose (or not choose) to describe your defense. Here are two ideas to consider.
- Why you might want to describe your defense in the Notice – If you have a good case, you may want to let the other side know before the trial. This may help you to negotiate a settlement.
- Why you might NOT want to describe your defense in the Notice – You might not want to give the other side a chance to prepare a response to your argument.
If you do not file the Notice to Defend, you may still appear at the hearing and offer your defense. The judge will likely question you to see if you have a defense. If the judge believes you have a defense, he or she may go ahead with trial that day. It is also likely that other side will ask to postpone (continue) the hearing to a later date. The other side will ask for the postponement in order to have more time to prepare.
TIP - Check the Complaint to see if the other side indicated that they were asking the judge for an Affidavit Judgment. This means that they are asking the judge to make a decision without a trial. This will occur only if:
- A request is made for an Affidavit Judgment, and
- The judge agrees that the plaintiff made a good case, and
- You do not file a Notice to Defend or show up at the hearing.
Making the Decision on Whether You Have Good Defense
- If there is a contract involved, read it carefully. Go through it point by point for obligations imposed on you or the other side. If you are not sure what the words mean, look them up in the legal terms glossary.
- Look for the key points in the plaintiff’s story. Can you dispute any of these? Look particularly at the parts of the story that show that you should be held liable (responsible).
- Look for receipts, take pictures, find witnesses, or put together any other proof of what happened.
- If the dispute involves goods or services that you recieved, were they substandard? If you can show that the goods or services that you received were substandard (by finding an expert or other proof of what is an acceptable standard), you may persuade the judge that you should not have to pay the full amount due.
- Read the law on your type of case.
Talk with a legal expert (an attorney) on the points you find confusing. You may want to consider:
- Hiring an attorney for part of the case
- Checking if your homeowners or auto insurance cover this and provide representation.
- Consider what an outsider might think was fair. Based on your analysis, do you have a case?
- If you owe some money, you may be able to negotiate a lesser amount. Count this as a victory.