If I’m the defendant in a lawsuit and filed my answer over a month ago but still haven’t heard from the plaintiff’s attorney, how long do they have to respond?

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If I’m the defendant in a lawsuit and filed my answer over a month ago but still haven’t heard from the plaintiff’s attorney, how long do they have to respond?

Asked on September 4, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

In Texas, any plaintiff in a civil suit has 21 days to respond to a lawsuit, or a default judgment can be entered against them.  However, there is not a rule in the reverse which requires a specific time for a plaintiff to do something after an answer is filed.  Each court has their own policies about how they expect civil cases to be handled.  If a plaintiff does nothing for an extended period of time, many judges will put the case on what is called a DWOP docket. DWOP stands for dismissal for want of prosecution.  Some judges want them to do something within six months, others will give a plaintiff longer-- it varies from judge to judge.  If a plaintiff's case ends up on one of these dockets, they must appear and explain to the court why they need more time to do something with their lawsuit.  If they do nothing, then the judge can and will dismiss their case for want of prosecution.  If you want a case to be closed sooner, you can consult with an attorney about filing a motion for summary judgment for you.  Summary Judgments are motion hearings which are cheaper than a full fledged jury trial. 

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

After filing your answer, there isn't any deadline for the plaintiff's attorney to respond.  The case will now be in the discovery phase.  Discovery means that the plaintiff's attorney will be sending you various documents to try to elicit additional information.  These documents may include interrogatories (written questions for you to answer under oath), request for production of documents (documents for you to produce), request for admissions (statements regarding the facts in the case which you can admit or deny).  After you respond to these items, the plaintiff's attorney might send additional sets of these documents to get additional responses and/or the attorney might take your deposition (answering questions under oath recorded by a court reporter).  The deposition would probably be held at an attorney's office.  The attorney could also issue subpoenas for various items.

You can also do your own discovery by sending interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions, etc. to the plaintiff's attorney for the plaintiff to respond.


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