If individuals have been served with a complaint, it is imperative that they respond to the court within the time indicated. Not only do they have the right to “tell their side of the story” in their defense, but they may also, in some small claims courts, be permitted to “counter-claim.” The counter-claim may be related to the original complaint (tending to diminish the complaint’s value or truth), or it may be wholly unrelated but still properly raised against the person who has sued them. Defendants must check local procedure for details on the permissibility of counter-claims.
Defendants may raise the defense that they were not properly “served” with court papers according to local rules. They may raise the defense that the time for filing suit against them has expired. They may raise the defense that the person suing them has not stated a viable claim or cause of action. They may raise any other defense that they believe diminishes the value or the existence of the complaint against them.
Finally, individuals being sued need to study carefully the charges against them very carefully. First and foremost, they need to develop any facts that tend to show that they are not liable. Secondly, they need to develop any facts that tend to diminish or reduce the amount of damages the person claims they have caused. Third, they need to develop any evidence that will support their defense (or counterclaim) and/or that will corroborate their own testimony. Finally, they should practice their presentation: they will want their side of the dispute to be logical, to-the-point, and damaging to the claims against them.