Served with a debt collection lawsuit? You must respond within 20 days.

November 18, 2009 by Todd Murray · Leave a Comment 

In Minnesota, a lawsuit begins when the defendant is served. “Served” is just a fancy legal word that basically means “delivered”. There are two main ways you can be served: (1) by having the lawsuit handed to you personally; or (2) by having it left at your home with someone of appropriate age. Once you’ve been served, you have 20 days to answer the lawsuit. An answer is a formal legal document that responds to the allegations in the complaint. This post talks about how to answer a lawsuit.

If you don’t answer the lawsuit within 20 days, your opponent can apply for a default judgment. The court considers all of the allegations in the complaint to be true and gives your opponent whatever they are asking for. In other words, your opponent wins not because they have a better case, but because you didn’t participate. In debt collection cases, a default judgment is entered administratively by a court clerk without a judge ever seeing the case.

A judgment, whether entered by default or otherwise, is a court ruling that you owe the money. And once a debt collector has a judgment, they have the power to garnish your bank account and your paycheck.  Altough judgments can sometimes be overturned, for the most part they are final. That’s why its so important to answer the lawsuit within the 20 days. If you don’t, you no longer can raise any defenses and will probably have to either negotiate a settlement or payment plan with the debt collector or, if the situation is serious enough, consider bankruptcy.

If you live in Minnesota and want help answering a debt collection lawsuit, feel free to contact me by using the contact form in the upper right corner of this page. I offer a number of flexible representation options, so even if you can only afford to pay a few hundred dollars, I might be able to help you.

What is a summons?

October 26, 2009 by Todd Murray · Leave a Comment 

A summons is a notice that comes with a lawsuit. The purpose of a summons is to notify you of the lawsuit and to let you know how long you have to respond to it. In Minnesota, this is what it says on a summons:

YOU ARE HEREBY SUMMONED and required to serve upon plaintiff’s attorney an Answer to the Complaint which is herewith served upon you within Twenty (20) days after the service of this Summons upon you, exclusive of the day of such service. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be taken against you for the relief demanded in the Complaint.

That’s about as clear as mud. What it really means is this:

YOU HAVE BEEN SUED. The papers in your hands are a lawsuit. You must answer the lawsuit within 20 days. The day you were served does not count toward the 20 days. If you don’t answer the complaint within 20 days, the other side will win automatically without a judge ever seeing the case.

If it were up to me, the summons would also explain that an answer is a formal document that admits or denies the allegations in the complaint. And that an answer must be in writing and merely calling the plaintiff’s attorney is not an answer. And if you don’t know how to answer a complaint, you should talk to a lawyer right away. Unfortunately, though, I’m not in charge. So this article will have to suffice.

If you live in Minnesota and want help answering a debt collection lawsuit, feel free to contact me by using the contact form in the upper right corner of this page. I offer a number of flexible representation options, so even if you can only afford to pay a few hundred dollars, I might be able to help you.