Sometimes it is worthwhile to put up a fight when you’re being sued on a credit card or mortgage loan deficiency. The truth is, many times, the lender does not have the evidence available to prove the case, or does not have the means to get the proof admitted into evidence — a crucial step to win a judgment for the debt against the borrower.
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. tacitly admitted this recently when it voluntarily dismissed more than a thousand of its credit card lawsuits across the country. The company won’t admit WHY it took this step which was reported in last week’s Wall Street Journal.
It has been coming to light in the courts, however, that, just like the “robo-signers” that surfaced with the foreclosure mess, credit card lawsuit affidavits of the debt allegedly owed have been signed by employees who are not personally-familiar with the company records and have not verified the debt.
Rather than risk public disclosure and embarrassment, speculation is that the company decided to withdraw the cases until the documentation could be fixed.
For the poor soul facing a lawsuit, it is important to know that the collection “model” used by the credit card companies is based largely on the fact that very few debtors respond to the suit. In fact, about 94% of suits end up in “default judgments” because there is no response by the defendant.
To defend, you may have to have some knowledge of the law. This attorney frequently sees unrepresented debtors showing up in court and responding in this typical fashion to the judge’s query as to whether they owe the debt: “I cannot afford to pay.” By responding this way, the debtor has implicitly admitted the debt is owed, hence, the judge will issue judgment, and not being able to pay is not a valid legal defense to establishing the liability.
The debtor will have to, in good faith, contest the liability and ask for trial. Some understanding of the rules of evidence and “discovery” are helpful to know what proof the lender will have bring forward, how the debtor can ask for it, and what the lender’s attorney will need to establish to get it admitted into the record.
It’s not foolproof, but sometimes worthwhile, particularly when the debtor cannot simply declare bankruptcy, maybe because he has property which cannot be protected and which he would lose, or other personal reasons.
This law office specializing in financial matters in DC and MD has successfully defended creditor lawsuits and settled others. One current case involves a suit for $185,000 for a second mortgage that was left over from a foreclosure on the client’s home. Today, we got a letter from the lender who has brought his settlement offer down to $30,000 — not a bad discount.
It doesn’t hurt to investigate all the options. Don’t be in the 94% who just let the lender get a judgment against them without a fight.