Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary


A defendant's court papers that seek to reverse the thrust of the lawsuit by claiming that, despite the plaintiff having brought the lawsuit in the first place, the plaintiff is actually wholly or partly at fault concerning the same set of circumstances. The counterclaim goes on to allege that the plaintiff thus owes the defendant money damages or other relief. A counterclaim is commonly but not always based on the same events that form the basis of the plaintiff's complaint. For example, a defendant in an auto accident lawsuit might file a counterclaim alleging that it was really the plaintiff who caused the accident -- or could claim that, as long as they're in court, the plaintiff should pay for having chopped down the defendant's tree the previous week.