Well, for the 5th time in the last 7 days I’ve had a new client inquiry where the individual has been representing themselves in a credit card lawsuit. The common scenario is this…Debt buyer sues person. Person goes on internet and googles what to do. Google tells them to file an “answer” so they do it. Debt buyers attorney then files a motion for summary judgment, and person calls my office. Can you help me? Sure, but you’ve already completely mishandled the case, you’ve waived some of the most important defenses, and it’ll take a whole lot of legal work to get the case back in order and it will definitely cost you…but sure, I can help. I still haven’t figured out if people are being cheap, if they’re not taking the lawsuit seriously, or if they panicked when they filed their own answer. Sometimes, if its a small case, maybe for under $1000, I can understand when someone tries to defend themselves. Recently, though, the cases have been large ones.
“Mary” was sued by an old debt buyer for $16,000. She filed her own answer and assumed that the case would just “go away”. I’m not sure why people think that, but they do. Debt buyer filed a motion for summary judgment and the court ordered that briefs be filed. “Mary” then contacted our firm. Right off the bat, I have to tell “Mary” that I have to charge her more than I normally would on such a case because she has mishandled it and her odds of winning have decreased. A response to the Motion for Summary Judgment needs to be prepared, along with a brief, then an appearance in Motions’ Court. Then, after we defeat the motion, we have to file our own motion, this one to amend the faulty answer that “Mary” filed. Then, we do discovery to force the debt buyer to produce documents. When they fail to produce them, we do a Motion to Compel. This goes on and on until we have a hearing.
All of this legal work could have been avoided had “Mary” contacted and hired us as soon as she was sued. We would have filed Preliminary Objections to the lawsuit ( a kind of motion that alleges that the lawsuit is defective) and in most cases we are able to have the lawsuit dismissed, without all of this extra legal work (and legal fees). We would have avoided a trial (at trial, you as the defendant can lose… that is common sense… but, if there is no trial, then you have won the case).
This story repeats itself every day at our firm. In a nutshell, DO NOT REPRESENT YOURSELF in a credit card lawsuit. Yes, 1 out of 20 times you will win the case… but, the other 19 times you will lose a case that you should have won and would have won if you had hired a knowledgeable consumer attorney. Midland Funding, Calvary SPV, National Collegiate Student Loan Trust, Portfolio Recovery Associates, Main Street Acquisitions, Atlantic Credit and CACH all have attorneys. Newsflash, these attorneys all know debt collection laws much better than you. You need an attorney on these cases, hire one ASAP.