Question: There is an attorney office that buys old debts. They sued me in the state Michigan and I haven’t lived in for 8-10yrs. This has been happening for 2 yrs. I contacted Michigan court a year ago and got no response. I did it again this month. I was told you must fill out a form and not a letter of dispute.
I must travel to Michigan from Florida to prove my reason. This buyer of old debts checked my credit file repeatedly for years so I know they had my Florida address and employer. I’m a legal resident of Florida. They played dirty and never served me here. They did not sue me in Florida even though they knew I was a legal resident here.
Instead they used an old, old address in Michigan so they were able to win by default. I don’t even know if those were my bills but I looked up Michigan law and it’s a 6 year statute of limitations. They did not prove anything like serving me or any debt verification. The judge didn’t know any facts all he knew is they win by default.
I would like to have all the 2 years of taking my money under false pretenses returned and the bad judgment removed from the credit file. Is this possible? Can’t they be made to sue me in my state? Can I make them show me it’s really my bill and the real date the bill occurred?
Answer: (Disclaimer: I am not an attorney and suggest you seek proper legal advice). At this point you need an attorney unless you are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to represent yourself. In some states a debt buyer can sue you in the state where the debt was incurred. But if this is credit card debt, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act gives you certain rights, one of which is the requirement that the credit card company sue you in the county where you currently reside.
I’m concerned that if you travel to Michigan and file legal documents you may be consenting to Michigan jurisdiction. I can’t stress enough that you need to consult with a Michigan attorney familiar with debt collection laws before you file anything in Michigan.
Vacating a Judgment. Default judgments can be vacated. One of the criteria for vacating a judgment is lack of personal jurisdiction. If you were not properly served with a summons the court can vacate the judgment against. Michigan court records of your case can tell you exactly how the debt buyer stated you were served.
Assert your Defenses. When asking the court to vacate a judgment you can assert a meritorious defense. Basically you need to tell the court why you don’t owe the money. You can dispute the amount of the debt or lack of knowledge of the debt if it does not belong to you.
If the debt collector is a debt buyer, you can usually argue that they can’t prove that they are the rightful owner of your account or that their evidence is deficient. A good consumer lawyer can help you figure out what defenses apply to your case.
Statute of Limitations. If the judgment is vacated in most instances the debt buyer can re-file the case in the correct venue which means you have to file an answer. However, if the statute of limitations has passed you may not have to worry about any debt buyer ever filing the case again.
Violations of FDCPA. An attorney can tell you if the debt buyer violated your rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). You can sue for each violation and the debt buyer must pay your attorney’s fees.
There is no time limit for seeking to vacate a judgment on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction. But I am not sure if you can recover all the money you have paid through the wage garnishment. But you can definitely get the judgment removed from your credit reports once it is vacated.
Again, an attorney would be able to properly advise you. You can find an attorney at naca.net. They have a list of consumer law attorneys in every state who are very familiar with debt collection lawsuits. I suggest you start with an attorney in Michigan first. The best of luck to you.