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What is the difference between a "counterclaim" and a "cross claim"?
If you have been sued, and you believe that you have been wrongfully sued or that you have claims of your own against the person that sued you, then within a short time frame after the suit is filed, as specified in the rules of the court that you are in, you file a countersuit. Also called a counterclaim, this is a direct claim back against the person who has initiated the lawsuit.
A cross claim, on the other hand, is against someone who is a co-defendant or co-plaintiff. For example: You are named in a law suit for having breached a contract, but another defendant is also named. For example, a homeowner sues you, a subcontractor as well as the general contractor. However, you believe that you have done everything right, and any problems claimed against you were in fact caused by the general contractor. So, because you are both defendants, you file a cross claim against the general contractor.
The counterclaim is directly against the person who has sued you. The cross claim is against anyone else who is in the same side of the lawsuit.
It's not too confusing if you picture a ping pong game. When the server hits the ball to you, you hit it back. This would be the legal equivalent of a counter claim. If for some reason, and this isn't the greatest example, your partner on the same side of the table hit the ball at you and you hit it back at them, this would be a cross claim.
Counterclaims and cross claims are established in the federal rules of civil procedure, and most states have carried these concepts over in their own rules of court or statutes.
This Guide is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies.