law-general-denial-vs-sworn-answer affirmative defenses  that must be pleaded and/or verified

GENERAL DENIAL UNDER TRCP 92

In its most basic form, i.e., a general denial, a defendant's answer puts all allegations in the plaintiff's
petition which are not required to be specially denied at issue. See TEX.R.CIV.P. 92; Shell Chem. Co.
v. Lamb, 493 S.W.2d 742, 744 (Tex.1973). The answer must be written, signed by the party or the
party's attorney, and filed with the court clerk who issued the citation. See TEX.R.CIV.P. 57, 99(b).
Those claims that must be specially denied are defined by Rule 93. See TEX. R.CIV.P. 93. When a
case falls within one of the categories defined by this rule, a general denial is insufficient; a defendant
must provide a verified denial, supported by an affidavit based on personal knowledge. See TEX.R.
CIV.P. 93; Roark v. Stallworth Oil & Gas, Inc., 813 S.W.2d 492, 494 (Tex.1991). If a verified denial is
required, failure to comply with the rule relieves the plaintiff if its burden of proof. See Roark, 813 S.W.
2d at 494.

SUFFICIENCY OF ANSWER (GENERAL DENIAL)

Unlike verified denials, Texas courts have traditionally treated a wide variety of defendants' responses
sufficient to serve as an answer for the purposes of a general denial. See Smith v. Lippmann, 826 S.
W.2d 137, 138 (Tex.1992) (per curiam); Hock v. Salaices, 982 S.W.2d 591, 610*610 593 (Tex.App.-
San Antonio 1998, no pet.) ("Indeed, the courts have gone to great lengths to excuse defects in
answers to prevent the entry of default judgments against parties who have made some attempt, albeit
deficient, unconventional, or flat out forbidden under the Rules of Civil Procedure, to acknowledge that
they have received notice of the lawsuit pending against them."). This policy choice in favor of
construing defensive responses as "answers" is due to the effect of a defendant's failure to answer. A
non-answering party has admitted all of the plaintiff's allegations, except for the amount of damages to
be awarded, and is subject to a default judgment at a time of the plaintiff's choosing. See TEX.R.CIV.
P. 239; Holt Atherton Indus., Inc. v. Heine, 835 S.W.2d 80, 83 (Tex.1992).
The vast majority of opinions that address the sufficiency of a defendant's answer arise from default
judgment cases in which the defendant has responded to the petition with a document that does meet
the requirements of a Rule 83 "Original Answer." See Hughes v. Habitat Apts., 860 S.W.2d 872, 873
(Tex.1993) (default judgment improper as defendant's pauper's affidavit was sufficient to constitute an
answer); Lippmann, 826 S.W.2d at 138 (default judgment was improperly granted as defendant's pro
se letter to district clerk confirming receipt of citation constituted an answer); Custom-Crete, Inc. v. K-
Bar Servs., Inc., 82 S.W.3d 655, 658 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 2002, no pet.) (letter by non-attorney
corporate representative denying claims was sufficient to avoid default judgment, despite defects in
form of answer).

HOUSTON CASES

Jackson v. Textron Fin. Corp. (Tex.App. – Houston [14th Dist.] Apr. 14, 2009)(Boyce)
(
no answer default judgment reversed, answer was on file, general vs. sworn denial and counterclaim)
REVERSED AND REMANDED: Opinion by
Justice Boyce   
Before Justices Frost, Brown and Boyce
14-07-01011-CV Robert W. Jackson v. Textron Financial Corporation and Longagribusiness LLC N/K/A
Farmtrac North America   
Appeal from 80th District Court of Harris County
Trial Court Judge:
Lynn M. Bradshaw-Hull



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