What is a Cross-Claim?

Mary McMahon

A cross-claim is a claim against a party on the same side of a lawsuit which arises from the matter being tried in court. This is in contrast with a counterclaim, in which a claim is made against another party in a suit. There are a number of situations in which a cross-claim might be filed. The ability to litigate cross-claims at the same time as the original claim allows for a more efficient process because a new trial does not need to be held.

A courthouse.
A courthouse.

In an example of how a cross-claim might work, a patient might sue a doctor, a hospital, and a manufacturer of medical devices for a hip replacement which went wrong. The patient is the plaintiff, while the doctor, hospital, and manufacturer are co-defendants or co-respondents. As the case unfolds, the doctor and hospital might determine that the problem is the result of an action on the part of the manufacturer, in which case they could file a cross-claim against the manufacturer, their co-respondent, arguing that the liability lies with the manufacturer.

One reason for cross-claims to arise is a case in which a plaintiff is not certain about where responsibility lies, and thus files a blanket claim against several parties. As the case develops, these parties can file cross-claims against each other when the facts of the case are brought to court and the matter becomes clearer. A cross-claim may also be filed as a result of a dispute or problem with the case.

Co-plaintiffs can also file against each other. Conversely, a situation can arise in which counterclaims are filed. In the example above, for instance, the hospital could file a counterclaim against the plaintiff for defamation, arguing that the way in which the case is being presented is hurting the hospital's reputation.

Filing cross-claims and counterclaims can be an important part of the process in a civil suit. While the case may look to bystanders like a confused thicket of claims, trying all of the claims at once allows the court to review the facts once and determine a verdict, and for the verdict to be consistent. Not filing a cross-claim or counterclaim at the time of the case does not prevent someone from filing a claim in the future, and people may hold off on such claims for a variety of reasons. Attorneys can advise their clients after reviewing the specifics of the case in question.

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Discussion Comments


I have to admit that I am confused on this issue of cross claims. I understand the need for third party claims, to bring in parties relevant to the situation. But if you are in a lawsuit as any of the parties already, what is gained by a cross claim? All that information will be incorporated into their answers to any or all of the complaints that brought them into the situation. The judge or jury will hear their side of the situation already.


@Monika - It does sound a lot like people are trying to place the blame on someone else. However, sometimes the wrong person really does get sued!

My mom used to work for a lawyer that handled primarily person injury suits. She always had some crazy story to tell about the cases they were working on! A lot of them were a total mess.

And sometimes, like I said, the wrong person really was being sued. That's why it was essential for cross-claims to be filed: so that the court could get all the information and figure out the real truth of the matter.


I understand cross-claims are a part of the civil suit system, but to me it just sounds like a lot of people trying to reassign blame.

In my opinion, if someone does something wrong they should take responsibility for it. Rather than a doctor trying to blame the hospital, or vice versa.

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