We are often asked by victims of abusive debt collectors what is the general overview or road map to what happens when they file a federal lawsuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) against the abusive debt collector. We have recently started a similar series concerning Alabama injury lawsuits over on our Birmingham Injury Blog and thought it would be a good idea to do something similar with an Alabama FDCPA case.
We’ll have a follow up blog post on each of these topics but for this post we will only lay out the steps to give you a good overview.
1. Suit is filed.
2. The lawsuit (complaint) is served on the defendant or defendants.
3. 20 days after being served, each defendant must answer the lawsuit or file a motion to dismiss.
4. If a motion to dismiss is filed, then the court will set a briefing schedule and sometimes (though not usually) have a hearing. The court will then issue a written ruling detailing whether or not the case against that defendant can proceed or if that particular claim against a defendant will be dismissed. If the motion is denied, then the defendant will need to file an answer to the lawsuit.
5. The defendant then files an answer detailing what parts of the complaint it agrees with and which parts the defendant denies. The answer also lists the “affirmative defenses” that the defendant claims will let it win the case even if it is guilty of violating the FDCPA.
6. The parties have a “meeting of the parties” to prepare a joint proposal to the federal judge with the deadlines and schedule of what will happen in the case.
7. The judge will review the proposal, occasionally will have a meeting with the lawyers, and then will issue a scheduling order which sets forth the deadlines and the limits on discovery.
8. The parties can engage in discovery to learn information about each other’s positions.
9. Written discovery occurs.
10. Depositions normally (but don’t have to) follow written discovery.
11. Often one party will move for summary judgment asking the judge to go ahead and rule in that party’s favor on the whole case or part of the case as no reasonable jury could rule on the issue any other way. Sometimes this occurs on a single issue (did the defendant violate the FDCPA but leaving the issue of damages for the jury) or sometimes it is on the whole case (did the defendant do anything wrong at all).
12. The federal judge will set a briefing schedule for the summary judgment motion.
13. The judge will often hold a hearing to determine if the motion for summary judgment is appropriate or if it should be denied so a jury can decide the issues. The judge will issue a detailed written order setting forth the ruling and the basis of the ruling.
14. Often mediation will occur before a trial. This is where the parties try to resolve their differences with the help of a neutral person. This can be a private individual – usually an experienced lawyer or former judge trained in mediation. It can also be with a magistrate judge who agrees to step in to try and resolve the case before trial. Sometimes a federal judge will order mediation but normally it is at the option of the parties.
15. Trial occurs.
16. The losing party can ask the judge to change his or her mind about a ruling so that a new trial can occur.
17. Appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia.
We will take each one of these steps and provide more detail so that as you consider filing a FDCPA lawsuit in Alabama against an abusive debt collector you will have a detailed guide to what will happen as we firmly believe that knowledge is power.
As always please contact us if you have any questions or would like us to send you more information free of charge. If you like this blog post, please subscribe to our blog through the RSS feed.
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