Getting a court notice that a creditor obtained a judgment against you can be very scary and cause anxiety. Will they garnish my wages or bank account? Can they take my car? I can’t pay this. What do I do?
At Fields Law, we understand your concerns and can provide answers to your questions. Most of the time people imagine that the circumstances are worse than they really are. We can give you the peace of mind knowing exactly what might happen. Then we can work on a plan of action to address the judgment and deal with it once and for all.
I’ve been served for a debt, what do I do?
Having a large debt hang over your head can be very stressful, but when that debt turns into a lawsuit, things can get scary. If you find yourself in a situation where you have been served for an outstanding debt, here’s what you need to know:
- First, you must determine if the summons is for Conciliation court (small claims court) or district court.
- You have 20 days to respond to a personal summons.
- Debt can only be collected for 6 years.
- DO NOT IGNORE IT.
- There are defenses to debt, you can protect yourself.
According to Minnesota 491A.01, Subd. 3, consumer credit transaction lawsuits under $4,000.00 can be heard in conciliation court. Typically, in conciliation court, you will be served through the mail and will include a hearing date (these hearing dates can be anywhere from two weeks out to many months out).
Additionally, the conciliation court mails the summons, not the Plaintiff, and they are only required to serve you at your last known address. If you are no longer living in Minnesota, you can still be served and be required to appear in the county in which the Plaintiff resides. If you are served through the mail, the court issued summons will have exhaustive instructions on how to handle it, but if you are still unsure, call the court, or safer yet, contact an attorney.
All consumer credit transaction lawsuits over $4,000.00 must go through the county district court in which you are a resident, or were a resident at the time the debt was incurred. An important thing to note is that a case being served through district court does not need to be filed before its service.
This means you will not see a court file number on the complaint. Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 5.04 requires a complaint be filed within one year of service. If a complaint is not timely filed within one year of service, the Plaintiff must dismiss their case with prejudice.
Once you have been served with a summons & complaint, you have 20 days to respond to the Plaintiff’s attorney. Even if you believe something is incorrect or it is not your debt, you need to respond. Although it is possible to contact the Plaintiff by phone, our general rule of thumb is to do everything in writing and save all copies. You can answer a complaint by responding to each allegation, finding a template to answer online, or the safest option of all, contact an attorney.
Consumer credit has a statute of limitations of six years in Minnesota. The date that starts this 6-year timer is either the date of last payment or the default date (the date your payment became due). If you believe a debt is past the statute of limitations, try to gather any documentation that may show this and contact an attorney.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but ignoring any type of lawsuit can lead to the situation getting worse. In consumer credit cases, when you fail to respond to a summons within the 20-day time limit, the party suing you can request a default judgment, which if granted, allows them to enter a judgment against you for the full amount of the debt owed, attorneys fees, and court costs. Avoiding lawsuits can turn small debts into a nightmare.
In our professional opinion, we see so many individuals who believe that nothing can be done about a debt lawsuit, but this is simply not true. If you are being sued by a debt collector, you have rights under the law that protect you from abusive collection practices. Additionally, these debts can be settled for a low amount by a skilled attorney, or you may qualify for an exemption from collection attempts.
If you are being harassed or sued by a debt collector, you can protect yourself and we can help. Contact a Minnesota Consumer Law attorney at Fields Law Firm for a free consultation and see how we can assist you in your consumer debt matter today.