Drafting an effective Reply and Answer

When to use this factsheet?

You have served your Claim and Statement of Claim on the defendant. The defendant has now served you with their Defence. This factsheet is about what to do in response.

Under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (UCPR) you can file a reply to a Defence.

A reply is often much shorter than either the Statement of Claim or Defence which have preceded it. It is more of a ‘summing up’, tying up any loose ends from the previous pleadings, rather than putting forward any new basis for your claim.

When should you file a Reply?

A Reply is important if either:

  1. the defendant has raised new allegations of fact; or
  2. the defendant has filed a counterclaim against you (the response to a counterclaim is called an answer).

1. Adopt any admissions & deemed admissions

Sometimes in the Defence the defendant will expressly admit some of your allegations. (The Defence will say – The Defendant admits the allegations in paragraph 1, 3, and 7(a) of the Statement of Claim).

Under the UCPR a defendant may be deemed to have admitted parts of your Statement of Claim if the defendant either:

  1. does not properly deny an allegation (for example the defendant just denies the allegation, or says that the allegation is untrue without saying why they deny the allegation), or
  2. does not actually address or respond to an allegation (for example the Defence does not refer to, or simply refers to other facts without denying your allegation).

If the defendant admits an allegation, this has two consequences for your case:

  1. you do not need to introduce evidence to the court proving an allegation that the defendant has already admitted; and
  2. the defendant needs the leave of the court to withdraw an admission made by the defendant. This even applies to deemed admissions.

If the Defence contains either express or deemed admissions you should adopt these admissions:

  1. The Plaintiff adopts the admissions (including deemed admissions) in the Defence.

2. You don’t need to respond to every paragraph (except for the counterclaim)

Some self-represented plaintiffs want to respond to every single paragraph of a Defence. This is not always necessary. You have already put your case in your Statement of Claim. You should only respond to any new allegations of fact that the Defence makes.

Unlike a failure to respond to a Statement of Claim, if you do not respond to a Defence, you are deemed to “not admit” the Defence. However, if you have not admitted an allegation you can only respond to the other party’s evidence about that allegation. You can only call evidence of your own about that issue if it is relates to another issue that you have raised in your pleadings.

3. Respond to any new facts alleged in Defence

Carefully read each paragraph of the Defence for new facts that the defendant might have raised in responding to your Statement of Claim. If you find that they have raised a new fact in a paragraph of their Defence, respond to it by either admitting it, or by not admitting or denying the allegation. See our factsheet Drafting a Defence – tips and examples for information on how to respond to allegations in pleadings.

4. Respond to any ground of defence

The defendant can respond to your claim in a number of ways. They might raise a defence based in law (for example your claim is barred as it is outside the limitation period), based in fact or a combination of the two. If you find that they have raised a defence in law, respond to it in the same way they have responded to your statement of claim.

Eg. “As to paragraph 21 of the Defence, the plaintiffs deny that the claim has been brought outside the time limit prescribed by the Limitations of Actions Act because…”.

5. Respond to their counterclaim – the answer

You should respond to the counterclaim as though it were a Statement of Claim and you were drafting a Defence:

  • respond to every paragraph – you can do this paragraph by paragraph if necessary;
  • deny any allegations of fact that you do not admit – you will be deemed to admit facts that you forget to plead to; and
  • make sure that you have provided an adequate Defence to their claim (either based on the facts, based in law, or a combination of both).

You should read our factsheet Drafting a Defence – tips and examples for further information.

What happens next?

In most cases, a Reply is the last “pleading” that is filed. After the pleadings stage, the parties complete disclosure.