You have been sued by a debt buyer (LVNV, Midland Funding, Portfolio Recovery, etc.) in Alabama District or Small Claims court — let’s talk about what normally happens with that lawsuit from start to finish.
First, the debt buyer files the lawsuit in court — this is called the “complaint”
In the complaint, the debt buyer will say that you owe the debt buyer money. Normally it won’t even identify the supposed original creditor and it almost never even attempts to show how the debt got from the creditor to the debt buyer.
Second, you are served with the complaint
Either a process server or a sheriff’s deputy will serve you a copy of the lawsuit — literally hand you a copy of it. Or you might get it by certified mail.
Once you have been served with the lawsuit (complaint) you have 14 days to answer or you can automatically lose in a default judgment.
Third, you either file an answer or you get a default judgment against you
To file an answer means to file a document with the court, and send a copy to the debt buyer’s lawyer, where you either admit or deny the complaint.
Considering we have handled countless debt buyer lawsuits over many years and have not yet seen them be able to show that the debt buyer owns the debt and our clients owe the debt, we have always denied the complaint in our answer.
You will have to make that decision yourself or with the help of your attorney.
If you don’t answer, then you will have a default judgment entered against you which means you lose the case. Even if you really and truly don’t owe the money, a default judgment says that you do and it is a real judgment.
By the way, if you admit the allegations of the complaint, then the same type of thing will happen — a judgment will normally be entered against you since you are admitting what the complaint says.
But if you deny the complaint, then you go to the next step.
Fourth, if you file an answer the case will be set for trial
The judge will normally set the trial after receiving your answer and that trial date is often in about 6 weeks or so. It will be set for a particular day and time but you could actually try the case anytime that day even though you will need to be there at the time indicated in the court notice.
Often court starts at 9 am although it can be in the afternoon.
Fifth, on the day of trial you or your lawyer will need to be at the court
So, the trial date is here. You need to be there or your attorney will need to be there or a default judgment will be entered against you.
If you hire us, for example, we normally will not ask you to be at court because the debt buyer is the one who has to prove the case.
If you go by yourself, however, understand that often the judge will ask you and the lawyer for the debt collector to go in the hallway and talk about resolving the case. If you don’t, then the trial will happen.
Both sides will put on evidence in accordance with the rules of court and then the judge will normally issue a decision either right then or within a few weeks.
Sixth, the judge will rule in your favor or the debt buyer’s favor
The judge will rule in favor of the debt buyer against you for a certain dollar amount (judgment amount) or will rule in favor of you, the defendant.
Seventh, the losing party has 14 days to appeal
Whoever loses has 14 days to appeal. If anyone appeals, the case starts over in Circuit court.
Finally, assuming you won, the debt buyer has to stop all collection activity against you and may have violated the FDCPA by filing the case against you
This means no more collection letters or calls or credit reporting on this account. This is often violated and you can normally sue the debt collector for doing this.
If the debt buyer showed up with no evidence and no witness, this is normally a good sign that the debt buyer had no intention of ever proving its case and this, in our opinion, violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and Alabama state law such as Malicious Prosecution and Abuse of Process.
If you live in Alabama feel free to call us at 205-879-2447 or fill out our online contact form and we hope this blog post has been helpful to you.
John Watts Birmingham, Alabama