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Archive | Lawsuits

I filed my own response to the lawsuit

I am amazed at the number of phone calls and emails that I have been receiving regarding this topic.  Many people, perhaps in an effort to save money, have decided that they can file their own response to a credit card or collection agency lawsuit. In almost every case, this is a mistake.

In Pennsylvania, you have 20 days to respond to a lawsuit after it has been served upon you. Your initial response is of the utmost importance, because it determines which defenses you intend to set forth.

There are two choices, either an Answer, which is generally a denial of the factual allegations, or, Objections,which in plain terms allege that the credit card lawsuit is legally defective.  In most instances, Objections are the proper response to a Pennsylvania Credit Card Lawsuit. 

For the most part, Objections are waived if you do not raise them at the proper time.  (Waive means that you lose them). When a person files their own response, it is almost always an Answer, meaning that they have waived various defenses that would be afforded to them if they had filed Objections. This mistake may or may not be fatal to your case, but is that really a chance worth taking? For the most part, legal fees on credit card cases are not as high as you might think.  Generally, depending upon your location, the amount of the lawsuit, who the plaintiff is and who is representing them, your legal fees should only amount to a few hundred dollars.  When you are faced with a $10,000 credit card lawsuit, the fee is always worth the price…

Posted in Lawsuits

Illegal Debt Collection Threats

You had better pay this debt you deadbeat! We’re gonna garnish your wages… We’ll press fraud charges against you for failing to pay this debt!

These are some of the more common threats that we see in the credit card cases lawsuits that we defend.  ALL of these threats are illegal. There is a federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short) that makes these sorts of threats illegal. The FDCPA sets forth that these threats, and others just like them, are against the law AND it also gives you the right to sue the debt collector! Each threat or violation is a possible $1000 fine that you can recover from the collection agency AND you also can obtain your reasonable attorney fees in prosecuting the claim.

In that regard, our firm does not charge an up-front retainer when we take on FDCPA violation cases. We simply handle the case, we have the collection agency pay your claim, and we have them pay our fees as well. 

If a collection agency or debt collector makes any sort of threat to you that sounds illegal, or just plain wrong, then it probably is.  Contact our office for a free, no obligation review of your potential case.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Illegal Threats, Lawsuits

Yet Another Victory!

Today was a very good day for our firm.  We were representing an elderly fellow in court in Pittsburgh today.  FIA card services had filed a lawsuit against him on an alleged credit card account with an alleged $18,000 balance.  At the Arbitration hearing, FIA did not have any documentation, evidence, or witnesses, and thus, was unable to  prove its case against my client.  FIA quickly filed an appeal and a bench trial was scheduled before the judge. 

I made several calls to the opposing attorney in an attempt to obtain the documents that they had.  My phone calls were left unreturned.  At trial this morning, FIA had some apparent documentation, which it had never shared with me, but little else.  They failed to provide a witness to authenticate the documents, and because they were not provided to me beforehand, the documents were inadmissable.  Before the hearing even began, I presented a Motion to Dismiss, which was promptly entered by the judge.  The scoreboard today, my client 1, FIA Card Services 0.

Posted in Lawsuits

Apothaker and Associates

Have you been sued by Attorney Apothaker and Associates?  Join the club.  I deal with Attorney Apothaker’s lawsuits on a daily basis, whether its filing a response or simply reviewing the lawsuit to give a potential client some advice.   The Attorneys at Apothaker’s office are well versed in the law, they know what they are doing, they are serious collection attorneys, no doubt about that. For the most part though, the lawsuits filed by this office are defective (when they are representing junk debt buyers).  The lawsuits are simple, cookie cutter forms that often lack the proper information that is required by a Pennsylvania court to move forward.  Our typical response to these lawsuits is to file what are called “Preliminary Objections” which are, in a nutshell, an objection to the numerous legal defects contained in the lawsuit.

Without fail, the courts will agree with us as to our allegation of defects in these lawsuits.  The courts generally will give Attorney Apothaker’s office the opportunity to “cure” the defects in the lawsuit, but in my experience, his office generally has difficulty in curing the problems.  To be fair once again, it is not necessarily his office that has the problem, its the clients that he often represents.  These collection agencies, or junk debt buyers, simply do not have enough information to prevail against you in a court of law in most cases.

There are certain documents that are necessary to prevail in a credit card lawsuit, including the terms and conditions, the monthly statements, the contracts, and the assignments.  These debt buyers often have a very difficult time in obtaining all of the proper documents for these cases.

If you have been sued by Apothaker and Associates, you need to have a knowledgeable consumer attorney review the lawsuit, whether its my office or another consumer attorney.  Again, these lawsuits are generally defective, and there is a very strong possibility that they can be thrown out of court without you having to pay anything other than a small attorney fee.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

The Garnishment Threat

The collection agency calls and says that you better pay up.  If you don’t pay, then we’ll garnish your wages.  Believe it or not, that can be a great phone call to receive if you live in Pennsylvania.

This is a common threat that is issued by the collection agencies and junk debt buyers.  It works very well for them because nobody wants their wages to be garnished.  Unfortunately, it is also an illegal threat.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states that do not allow creditors to  garnish wages.  If you live in PA and you work in PA, there is no exception, at least not when a collection agency or credit card company is involved.  The only time that a creditor can garnish wages on a credit card claim in Pennsylvania is when they’ve properly sued you in another state and obtained a proper judgment, then transferred that judgment in to PA.

Regarding the threat, as I said above, it is illegal.  There is a federal law known as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA for short) that protect consumers.  One of the main components of this law is that a debt collector cannot make a threat that it cannot follow through on, or it can’t make a threat that is illegal.  Since wage garnishment is not permissible, by law, in Pennsylvania, making such a threat is illegal.

The FDCPA gives you the right to file a lawsuit against a debt collector that makes this sort of illegal threat.  There is a statutory $1000 damage penalty, along with an imposition of reasonable attorney fees.  In that regard, your attorney is free.

Call our office if you have been threatened with wage garnishment in Pennsylvania.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Garnishment, Lawsuits

Strike a Deal?

An individual sent me an email today asking whether they should still respond to a lawsuit filed by a collection agency.  The individual explained that they had reached an agreement with the collection agency on a payment plan.

My first response was to  tell the individual that they had made a huge mistake in agreeing to pay the collection agency anything.  Typically, as you will see from any of myother posts, a collection agency has a difficult time in proving a  case against you in a court of law in Pennsylvania. 

My second response was that if they are going to continue on with the proposed settlement, making their mistake even larger, then they should absolutely file a written response to the lawsuit.  An agreement with a collection agency is pretty meaningless unless you have it spelled out specifically inwriting.  I would never trust an oral agreement with a collection agency, ever.  If you fail to file your response to the lawsuit, the agency most likely will simply enter a default judgment against you for the full amount of the alleged debt, often with an inclusion of their attorney fees.  If you do “strike a deal” with a collection agency, (which again is a huge mistake) then at least get it in writing.

Posted in Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

Debt Negotiation in Pennsylvania

I get  many inquiries from potential clients who want me to assist them with debt negotiation.  I will only negotiate a debt under very limited circumstances. 

The first circumstance where I will negotiate a debt is when the Plaintiff (the company that is suing you) is an original creditor.  An original creditor is the finance company that you established your credit account with.  Capital One files alot of their own lawsuits in Pennsylvania, so most times  I am open to negotiation for a client on a Capital One case. 

Negotiation really works best when you have a lump sum of money to offer as a settlement.  For instance, if you owe an alleged $10,000 debt, if you can offer $5000 or $6000 as a lump sum, then you have a shot at obtaining a settlement.  On the other hand, if you can only afford to pay $100 per month, a negotiation is not going to get much of a reduction for you, if any.

I also would consider negotiating with a collection agency on a very small case, perhaps under $1,000.  While my steadfast rule is to never negotiate with collection agencies, there is a reason that I would negotiate on this small amount.  Quite frankly, its more cost effective for the client to pay me an hour’s worth of fees to negotiate a settlement on a small case rather than to hire me to defend it in court for several hours of time.  

On larger claims, let’s say $1000 and up, I would almost never negotiate with a collection agency in Pennsylvania.  Hire me to defend the lawsuit, or, hire another attorney if that’s your choosing, but it would be money well spent.  A knowledgeable consumer attorney can defeat a collecton agency about 85% of the time, perhaps better, so you really should take your chances in court.

If you have any questions about debt negotiation, credit card accounts, collection agencies, or any other consumer matter, please contact my office at 412-823-8003 or 1-888-536-6644 for a free,  no obligation consultation.

Posted in CC Companies, Collection Agencies, Lawsuits

Do I need an Attorney?

I am very surprised by the number of people who don’t consult with a consumer attorney on a credit card case.  As soon as you receive a collection letter or phone call, you should speak to a consumer attorney right away.  Most of us, my office specifically, will give a free telephone consultation about the collection process and to discuss your defenses and rights. 

I have found that many of you instead call the collection agency to try to work out a payment plan.  What a huge mistake!  That is exactly what they want you to do, its part of what they base their business model on! The truth of the matter is that most collection agencies have difficulty in proving a case against you in a court of law.  That’s why they call you and use high pressure tactics to get you to pay.  Once you make a payment, or even agree to one, you may have severely damaged your case.

A frequent question that I face is whether the individual can handle the matter themselves.  I almost never think that this is a good idea.  They ask, what can I do that they can’t?  Think about it, I do this every day, with tremendous success.  I usually know exactly what language is in your lawsuit without even seeing it just by learning the name of the collection agency.  I know which attorneys they hire, how those attorneys operate, which documents they have, their usual success rate and so on.  Are you willing to risk a $9000 judgment against you just to save a few dollars in attorney fees?  It doesn’t make sense to me.  Look, I try to be as blunt as I can with clients, they really do appreciate it.  I’ll tell you if I can help you and I’ll also tell you if it’s in your interests to go another direction.  (I often do this with the smaller cases, where it doesn’t make sense to hire me to defend a $750 lawsuit).

The key is to not make a mistake by calling the agency or by filing your own response to the credit card lawsuit.  That’s my job, to handle that aspect of it and to give you a good result at the end.

If you have any questions about a collection agency or credit card lawsuit in Pennsylvania, call my office at 412-823-8003 for a free, no obligation consultation.

Posted in Lawsuits

What happens in a debt collection lawsuit?

The lawsuit is filed, either at the District Justice or the Court of Common Pleas. If the lawsuit is filed at the local DJ, the collection agency is hoping that you do not attend the hearing, because they will then automatically win. After they obtain the judgment, they will transfer it to the Court of Common Pleas and begin execution proceedings. It is in your best interests to notify the District Justice that you are going to defend yourself immediately upon receiving the notice of the lawsuit from them. You should have an attorney represent you at that hearing, and you should not attend.  In magistrate cases, the collection agency almost never has the proper documentation to beat you in court.  They actually need you to attend so that they can question you and use your testimony against you. Have an attorney go in your place and the results should be in your favor.

If the lawsuit is filed in the Court of Common Pleas, you will receive a visit from your county Sheriff’s Department. A Deputy Sheriff will serve the paperwork on you at your home. Upon receipt of the lawsuit, you will have twenty (20) days to file a written response to the lawsuit that is called either an Answer or Preliminary Objections.

If you fail to file the written response in the allotted time, you will have a judgment entered against you without the benefit of having a hearing. As you can see, it is of the utmost importance to respond to the lawsuit immediately, to preserve your rights to defend yourself in a court of law. That is the key to beating a collection agency, i.e. to defend yourself in court, preferably with the right attorney. There are a number of issues that the collections agency must prove to obtain a judgment against you, and they typically cannot do so, again, as long as you properly defend yourself. You must force them to produce all of the documentary evidence in their claim against you, and then poke legal holes in their case.  A knowledgeable consumer attorney can file the proper responses to the lawsuit and you very likely will never end up in a courtroom.

Contact our office at 412-823-8003 or toll free at 1-888-536-6644 for a free telephone consultation if you have any questions regarding collection agency lawsuits in Pennsylvania.

Posted in Lawsuits, Other

How do I defend myself in a credit card lawsuit?

Make them prove their case, every single aspect of it. An experienced attorney can guide the way here. There are so many issues that the collection agency has to prove to prevail in a court of law. I like to tell my clients that the agency has to prove A through Z, and they often can only prove A through E.

The collection agency has to prove a number of issues in a lawsuit to collect a debt. First and foremost is that they have to prove that they have the right to sue you. Did the original creditor actually sell, or assign, your account to them? Show me the documents!

They also have to prove that it was your account, and that you agreed to the terms and conditions that they allege are applicable to your account. They also have to prove that you made use of the credit account, the interest rate, the late fees and more. Again, I force them to show me all of the documents. Most times, they cannot come up with the proper documents so we have the case dismissed.

Contact our office at 412-823-8003 or toll free at 1-888-536-6644 for a free telephone consultation if you are being sued by a Collection Agency in Pennsylvania.

Posted in Lawsuits

Credit Card Lawsuits

If you are faced with a credit card lawsuit, whether its an original creditor or a junk debt buyer, contact my office at 412-823-8003 right away. We offer a free, no obligation review of any credit card based lawsuit that is filed in PA.

FDCPA Attorneys

Many Debt Collectors threaten people, that's a fact. Threats of wage garnishment, jail, fraud charges and contacting employers, friends and relatives happens every day to people just like you. The truth is that most of these threats are illegal. If a debt collector is threatening you, contact our office at 412-823-8003 for a free initial consultation.