What are the Steps in a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Massachusetts?
Being sued by a debt collector is often a stressful experience for consumers. But although attorneys on television often resolve cases within a matter of days or hours, the court system can be a complex and time-consuming voyage for those not familiar with the court rules and procedures. This blog gives a brief outline of the stages of a average debt collection lawsuit.
The first document that is filed in any debt collection lawsuit is the complaint. The debt collector files this with the court, and then sends it to the sheriff to have it served on the consumer. The complaint is supposed to be a “short and plain statement,” organized in numbered paragraphs, alleging why the consumer owes the debt.
Once the consumer receives the complaint from the sheriff, she or he has 20 calendar days to file either of two documents, an answer or a motion to dismiss. An answer is structured the same as the complaint and responds paragraph-by-paragraph to the statements in the complaint. It can also include a counterclaim, which is a counter-lawsuit against the debt collector. A motion to dismiss can ask the court to reject the case for failure to properly serve the complaint, failure to have standing to collect the debt, or a number of other reasons.
The parties then request and exchange discovery. Discovery includes requests for documents, interrogatories (written questions that must be answered under oath), and depositions. Discovery is important because it is where consumers are permitted to ask debt collectors for documents, such as signed contracts, assignments, and account statements. A debt collector may not necessarily have all these documents.
After discovery is complete, one or both of the parties will often file a motion for summary judgment, a request for the judge to decide the case without a trial. This can be done only when there are no material facts in dispute.
Finally, if neither party wins a motion for summary judgment, a trial will be scheduled. A trial may be a bench trial, conducted by a judge, or a jury trial.
From start to finish, a debt collection case may take a year or more. The Massachusetts court system has ordered that most debt collection cases be resolved within 6 to 18 months. Because of the length and complexity of what may seem to be a simple case, it is often a good idea to have an experience attorney represent you to make sure your rights are protected.
Culik Law is a Massachusetts Law Firm. The posts on Culik Law’s blog are not intended as legal advice. If you have questions about your particular situation, CONTACT CULIK LAW for a Free Consultation.