Civil procedure in the United States
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In civil procedure, a party's claim is a counterclaim if the defending party has previously (in the present action) made a claim against the claiming party.

Examples of counterclaims include:

  • After a bank has sued a customer for an unpaid debt, the customer counterclaims (sues back) against the bank for fraud in procuring the debt. The court will sort out the different claims in one lawsuit (unless the claims are severed).
  • Two cars collide. After one person sues for damage to her car and personal injuries, the defendant counterclaims for similar property damage and personal injury claims.

Counterclaims did not exist at common law; they are an invention of modern civil procedure.[citation needed]

Under the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

In U.S. federal courts, counterclaims can arise on various occasions, including e.g.:

  • an attempt by the defendant to offset or reduce the amount/implications of the plaintiff's original claim against the defendant;
  • a different claim by the defendant against the plaintiff;
  • a claim by an impleaded third-party defendant against the original defendant acting as a third-party plaintiff;
  • a claim by any party against another party who has made a crossclaim against him

Compulsory v. permissive

Under the FRCP, counterclaims are either compulsory or permissive.

Permissive counterclaims comprise "any claim that is not compulsory."[1] Such claims may be brought, but no rights are waived if they are not. Courts rarely give permissive counterclaims the necessary supplemental jurisdiction to be brought.[citation needed]

A claim is a compulsory counterclaim if, at the time of serving the pleading,

  1. the counterclaim "arises out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the opposing party's claim,"
  2. AND the counterclaim "does not require adding another party over whom the court cannot acquire jurisdiction,"
  3. AND "when the action was commenced, the [otherwise mandatory counterclaim] was [not] the subject of another pending action,"[2]
  4. AND
  • EITHER the opposing party sued on its claim by a process that established personal jurisdiction over the pleader on that claim,[2] (i.e., NOT by a process such as attachment)
  • OR (if personal jurisdiction was not established over the pleader), the pleader asserts some other mandatory counterclaim.[2]

This last (fourth) requirement is explained in the official notes as follows:

When a defendant, if he desires to defend his interest in property, is obliged to come in and litigate in a court to whose jurisdiction he could not ordinarily be subjected, fairness suggests that he should not be required to assert counterclaims, but should rather be permitted to do so at his election. If, however, he does elect to assert a counterclaim, it seems fair to require him to assert any other which is compulsory within the meaning of Rule 13(a). Clause (2), added by amendment to Rule 13(a), carries out this idea. It will apply to various cases described in Rule 4(e), as amended, where service is effected through attachment or other process by which the court does not acquire jurisdiction to render a personal judgment against the defendant. Clause (2) will also apply to actions commenced in State courts jurisdictionally grounded on attachment or the like, and removed to the Federal courts.

NOTES of Advisory Committee on 1963 amendments to Rules[3]

If the counterclaim is compulsory, it must be brought in the current action or it is waived and lost forever.

Various tests have been proposed for when a counterclaim arises from the same transaction or occurrence, including same issues of fact and law, use of the same evidence, and logical relation between the claims.[4]


  1. ^ FRCP Rule 13(b)
  2. ^ a b c This inverted formulation is valid, because it reverses the grammatical polarity of the clause (adding or removing the word "not") while also rendering the "exception" as a requirement.
  3. ^ ["NOTES of Advisory Committee on 1963 amendments to Rules"]
  4. ^ 6 Wright & Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure Sec. 1410 at 42 (1971), as cited in Plant v. Blazer Financial Services, 598 F.2d 1357, 1360 (5th Cir. 1979).

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • counterclaim — coun·ter·claim / kau̇n tər ˌklām/ n: a claim for relief that is asserted against an opposing party after an original claim has been made compare affirmative defense at defense, cross action, cross appeal …   Law dictionary

  • counterclaim — [kount′ər klām΄; ] for v., also [ kount΄ər klām′] n. an opposing claim, esp. one by a defendant against a plaintiff s claim in a lawsuit vt., vi. to present as, or make, a counterclaim counterclaimant n …   English World dictionary

  • Counterclaim — Coun ter*claim ( kl[=a]m ), n. (Law) A claim made by a person as an offset to a claim made on him. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • counterclaim — A claim presented by a defendant in opposition to or deduction from the claim of the plaintiff. Fed.R. Civil P. 13. If established, such will defeat or diminish the plaintiffs claim. Under federal rule practice, and also in most states,… …   Black's law dictionary

  • counterclaim — A claim presented by a defendant in opposition to or deduction from the claim of the plaintiff. Fed.R. Civil P. 13. If established, such will defeat or diminish the plaintiffs claim. Under federal rule practice, and also in most states,… …   Black's law dictionary

  • counterclaim — UK [ˈkaʊntə(r)ˌkleɪm] / US [ˈkaʊntərˌkleɪm] noun [countable] Word forms counterclaim : singular counterclaim plural counterclaims a statement that you make against someone who has made a statement against you, especially in a legal case Derived… …   English dictionary

  • counterclaim — n. 1) to bring, enter, make a counterclaim 2) a counterclaim against * * * [ˌkaʊntə kleɪm] enter make a counterclaim a counterclaim against to bring …   Combinatory dictionary

  • counterclaim — I. noun Date: 1784 an opposing claim; especially a claim brought by a defendant against a plaintiff in a legal action II. verb Date: 1857 intransitive verb to enter or plead a counterclaim transitive verb to ask in a counterclaim …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • counterclaim — 1. noun a suit filed by a defendant against a plaintiff secondary to the original complaint. 2. verb To file a counterclaim …   Wiktionary

  • counterclaim — n. claim made in opposition to an earlier claim v. enter an opposing claim, make a counterclaim …   English contemporary dictionary

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