A layperson is often at a disadvantage when defending against a debt collection suit filed by an attorney. The debtor as a defendant does not know the “rules of the game” and sometimes takes the advice or direction of court staff (who by the way should not be giving legal advice but often do.)
Talking to clients who have appeared to defend in small claim collection suits in this area (Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and DC), I am surprised that many will meekly follow court staff instructions to come back to court on another date — when the collector’s attorney fails to show up or is late! This failing is a perfect opportunity to have the case thrown out!
You have a right to ask the court to proceed on the case. Tell the clerk that you are present and ready for the case to be called. When the case is called, proceed to the podium and ask the court to have the case “dismissed with prejudice.” That very important qualifier — “with prejudice” — means that you are asking the court to dismiss forever.