Counter-claim Law and Legal Definition

A Counterclaim is a defendant’s claim against a plaintiff presented in a civil proceeding. It is a claim set up in opposition to a previous claim by a respondent against a claimant. It also refers to a pleading that responds to charges set forth in a defendant's answer.

A counterclaim can be made by the defendant in a civil proceeding, in a main action against the plaintiff or against the plaintiff and other people. This claim may be an attempt to offset or reduce the amount/implications of the plaintiff's original claim against the defendant, or it may be a different claim.

Counterclaims are either compulsory or permissive. If the counterclaim is permissive, it may be brought, but no rights are waived if it is not. If the counterclaim is mandatory, it must be brought in the current action or it is waived. Under the United States Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a counterclaim is compulsory if it involves only the parties currently part of the suit, and is from the same transaction that the original suit is based on. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13(a).

A counterclaim can arise:

when a defendant attempts to offset or reduce the amount of a plaintiff's original claim against the defendant; or

when there exists a different claim by a defendant against a plaintiff; or

when a claim is raised by an impleaded third-party defendant against the original defendant acting as a third-party plaintiff; or

when a claim is raised by any party against another party who has made a cross claim against him/her.