Hundreds and hundreds of Alabama consumers are sued every single month by debt buyers (Palisades, Asset Acceptance, Unifund, etc). First a bit of background and then we will mention the two essential things Alabama consumers should remember when sued by a debt buyer.
Debt buyers are companies that purchase old debt for a few pennies on the dollar. They are also known as debt purchasers, debt scavengers, bottom feeders, and other not entirely flattering names and descriptions.
The whole business model is that they want Alabama consumers to default on the lawsuit so the debt buyer will win without a fight. Then a judgment will be present on your credit reports and you can have your wages and bank accounts garnished.
If you are sued, we suggest you hire a lawyer or at least go see a lawyer.
Whether or not you have a lawyer, there are two essential things to remember.
First, the debt buyer has to prove YOU OWE the money. Sometimes this is easy – you do. Other times you may not. For example, you may be the victim of identity theft. You may have paid off the debt to the original creditor but the “debt” was still sold to one of these collectors and now they have sued you. Whatever the case, the debt buyer must prove you owe the money. If they can’t do that, they will have a hard time winning the case.
Second, the debt buyer should be required to prove that IT OWNS the debt. In any case, the plaintiff who brings the lawsuit needs to show the plaintiff has “standing” or the right to bring the suit. So, if you run a red light and hit someone, you may “owe” that person. But if a complete stranger who was not involved in the wreck sues you for that wreck, you don’t “owe” that person because they don’t “own” the suit. These debt buyers come into court and normally have absolutely no proof that they own the debt. (Please note that if they do truly own the debt and can prove it, then you will owe the debt buyer just like you would the original creditor).
So it doesn’t matter if you owe somebody the debt – the question is do you owe this particular debt buyer this particular debt?
When we defend clients in court on these types of cases, the debt buyer rarely shows up with a witness (imagine – suing someone in court and having NO witnesses!) and the debt buyer refuses to produce at trial the alleged “purchase agreement” where they supposedly bought the debt. This is like your neighbor suing you to kick you out of your house claiming that you owe your neighbor the mortgage payments. When you say “prove it” the neighbor gets offended and says he should just win because obviously you owe somebody. So what!
Collection suits by debt buyers are getting more common and we recommend that you take immediate action if you are sued so that you can try and force the debt buyer into proving you owe the debt and the debt buyer owns the debt. Please contact us if you need any help.
Update: Here is a video that discusses the requirement of the debt buyer proving it owns the debt:
Here is an example of a lawsuit against debt collector and debt buyer LVNV, its collection lawyers, and Equifax related to a lawsuit in Alabama where LVNV did not prove it owned the debt and yet continued to collect against the Alabama consumer — she sued for federal and state law violations, including the FDCPA and FCRA.
If you live in Alabama, please feel free to contact us at 205-879-2447 or by filling out our contact form here.