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01 March 2010

We're getting sued. Anyone have advice? Ask Mefi cross-post, because I'm really kinda freaking out about this.
I did not want to put this on AskMe because people are GRAR lately but this was my experience when this happened to a friend of mine.

- there was a court date for sort of prelim stuff. Do not even think about not going to this.
- at the prelim court date for my friend, it was determined that they couldn't even accurately determine that a) the debt was hers b) that going after her [she was on SSI with very little income] would produce any of the money they were trying to get
- they decided to ... not pursue it. I don't know what the specifics were, but the company that bought the debt had very little documentation but this wound up going in my friend's favor even though it was definitely her bad debt.

So, I'd power through it, talk to a lawyer for maybe a quickie consult if you possibly can and get your documentation in order and just face it. Worst that happens is you have to pay. Best that happens is that you don't have to pay. If the only way you can pay is through installments, that is all you can do. Hang in there.
posted by jessamyn 01 March | 21:52
With debt issues, a local legal aid group really is the very best starting place. I don't know anything about California civil procedure, but in Illinois, a 6k debt would be small claims, and a place like San Francisco will most likely have a legal aid group that provides very comprehensive self-help for small claims. Small claims courtrooms are set up, for the most part, for people without attorneys, but your best bet when the other side has an attorney is to have one yourself. Or, at the very least, go in armed to the teeth with the self-help guides from a local consumers' rights/legal aid group. If you make too much money to qualify for a a legal aid attorney, you will still be able to use their self-help guides, or they may be able to refer you to a low-cost small claims debt attorney.

Generally with debt cases, where there is no dispute as to the amount owed or the right of the party claiming the debt to be paid the money, there will be a judgment in favor of the creditor-plaintiff and against the debtor-defendant. Failure to send someone to court on your behalf, whether it's you or an attorney, may result in a judgment being entered against you. If you have any doubt about the amount owed or the right of this group to be paid on this debt, well, it does not make sense to agree to pay it.

If it's an agreed judgment, there will often be a payment plan established at that time. If it's not an agreed judgment, but there is a judgment, there will be a standardized judicial procedure for discovering the assets of the debtor-creditor and using those assets to satisfy the judgment. I have no idea what that procedure is like in California.

(Completely irrelevant but possibly interesting to note: In Illinois, when the plaintiff is a purchaser of debts, they almost always fail to follow procedural steps precisely in the purchase of debts and they very often cannot win their lawsuits. But they get judgments because people ignore the suits. I don't know how that would work in CA. A local legal aid agency would be able to tell you!)
posted by crush-onastick 01 March | 23:05
No advice here, but best wishes - that's scary stuff.
posted by desjardins 01 March | 23:42
No advice here, either, just hugs and good thoughts.
posted by occhiblu 02 March | 01:21
I just wanted to pop in - I responded in the AskMe thread, and I'd be remiss if I didn't say get a lawyer because I am one, but it's really just scary because it's new to you. Normal people deal with this stuff without a lawyer all the time, and come out fine.

So, take a deep breath, read the paperwork, figure out what the paperwork is asking you to do, and do it. It's not as hard as it looks, and I think they make it intentionally intimidating-looking so guys like me can make more money on it.

Just take it step by step.

None of that is legal advice, it's more of a pep talk.
posted by jabberjaw 02 March | 03:18
Thanks so much, everyone. I really appreciate the advice, hugs & pep talk!
posted by treepour 02 March | 12:22
Head case || TV on the MetaRadio (take 2)