Debt Collection — proof of ownership and what happens if lose

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Welcome to this series where we answer comments from our viewers. We hope this is helpful to you!

Debt Collection: "proof of ownership and what happens if I lose?"In this article we’re answering a couple of questions:

If you lose your case do you have to pay the whole amount?

Can I ask the debt collectors for proof that they bought my debt?

These are great questions, so let’s dive in.

Let’s start with, “If you lose your case do you have to pay the whole amount?

If you lose your case, that means that there’s a judgment against you. This judgment means that you can either pay the whole amount now, or you can negotiate with the collection lawyer for a smaller amount.

Let’s say the debt is $5,000. They might take $4,000 instead of having to go through the collection process of garnishment, property liens, etc.

Or you could appeal your case to Circuit Court. In Alabama (as of when we are writing this article), you have 14 days to do so if you were sued in Small Claims or District Court. If you live in another state, you need to make sure you know what the rules are for your specific state.

Just because you lose doesn’t mean that you have to pay them right away. It means that you’re obligated to pay them money until something changes.

That change could be appealing your case, negotiating with their lawyer, or even asking the court to reconsider your case.

When you’re in this situation, you definitely have options. We never want to be on the receiving end of a judgment, however it’s good to know you can either settle it or ask someone else (a judge) to reevaluate our case by entering a motion to reconsider, or by appealing the case.

Now, let’s talk about asking the debt collector to prove they bought the debt.

This comment was left under a video we did about what happens if you ignore a lawsuit. If we ignore a lawsuit against us, we get a judgment against us.

If we’re talking in terms of a lawsuit (whether it’s against Midland, Unifund, LVNV, Portfolio Recovery Associates [PRA], etc), you can certainly ask them to prove the debt in the answer that is filed into court.

Sometimes in Alabama, the debt collector will try to prove they own the debt with the complaint they file against you. They will have an affidavit, a bill of sale, monthly statement etc. that they will use to claim they own the debt.

I disagree with that.

The bill of sale will say something to the effect of, “If you want to know exactly what was bought and what the contract was, look at the purchase agreement.”

The purchase agreement is never included in the complaint.

Putting an affidavit in the complaint is useless, since it can’t really do anything.

The best evidence of something is the thing itself.

If I were to go to court and describe the agreement to them, the opposing side could easily say my description is insufficient evidence.

We don’t need to know about the contract, we need to see the actual contract.

Do we ask for the evidence before the trial?

Some attorneys would say absolutely, you should demand proof. If you can request discovery in your case, you can ask for evidence that way. Then when the other side fails to produce the evidence, you can ask the court to order a motion to compel. This motion tells the debt collector that if they don’t produce evidence of owning the debt, then the judge will throw the case out.

That isn’t how we do our cases, however.

We normally wait until trial to ask for evidence.

When it comes to trial, they must produce proof.

Let’s think of it this way.

For 25 years I’ve helped consumers by suing companies, including consumers in personal injury cases.

Let’s say that I sue a trucking company for injuring my client in a car wreck. Their driver was being reckless and crashed into my client, causing all sorts of health issues.

The trucking company would have the right to ask my client for their medical records and ask them questions about the accident. That’s completely fine for the trucking company to do.

They also have the right not to ask for those documents and see if we will prove our injuries.  Now we would be crazy not to, but the trucking company could see if we do that.

We’re obligated to produce evidence in trial.

It’s the same obligation with a debt collector.

If a debt collector is going to sue you, they have an obligation to produce evidence that supports their case.  It must show it owns the debt.

If they’re calling or writing you about owing them money and you send them a dispute letter asking them to provide evidence that they own the debt,then most judges would say that the collector doesn’t have to prove it.

However, if they’re saying that they won’t provide the evidence, then you can refuse to pay them.

It’s justifiable to refuse to pay the debt collector if they refuse to prove they own your debt.

Ultimately, it does come down to how specific you can be in your dispute letter.

Sometimes discrepancies can occur, such as multiple companies reporting on the same debt, or even that the debt isn’t on your report at all.

If they send you the bill of sale, you can thank them for providing it, and ask them for the purchase agreement because it’s referenced in the bill of sale. You’re simply asking for clarification before you pay anyone money.

This is a step by step process that we sometimes have to take.

We’ll do more in depth articles in the future about this.

We hope this is helpful to you!

If you have any questions and you live in Alabama, feel free to get in touch with us!

We’d be glad to answer any questions you may have.

You can reach us by phone at 1-205-879-2447, or you can fill out a contact form and we will get in touch with you quickly. 

Have a great day!

-John G. Watts

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