In the past, I’ve written about the importance of answering a debt collection lawsuit. But answering the lawsuit is only the first step. After the debt collector receives your answer, they’ll usually send you written discovery. The discovery will probably have interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission. In Minnesota, it’s critical that you respond to each of these things within 30 days of receiving them. I’ll talk about each of them separately, with the most important first.
Requests for admission are usually short, true/false statements. You’re required to either admit or deny each statement. If the statement is completely true, you have to admit it. If any part of the statement is false, you should deny it. If you don’t have enough information to admit or deny the statement, then you should deny it. For example, if the request asks you to admit to owing a very specific sum of money and you’re not sure if that amount is accurate, then you should deny the request. If the request asks you to admit that a certain debt buyer purchased your account from the original creditor and you can’t be sure that they have (and you almost never can), you should deny the request. Most importantly, it’s critical to respond to the requests for admission within 30 days. If you don’t answer them within this time, the court will treat each question as if you admitted it. Debt collectors sneakily structure their requests for admission to contain statements about each element of their case. That way if you fail to respond to them, they’ll have proven their case in its entirety. You don’t want to give the debt collector this free pass. Make sure you answer the requests for admission within the 30 days and force them to produce actual proof of their case.
Interrogatories are simply just questions about the case. Debt collectors are allowed to ask about anything that is relevant to their claims or your defenses. Do your best to answer each question. If you don’t understand what the interrogatory is asking, then you may answer that you object to the interrogatory as vague or ambiguous. Like requests for admission, your answers to each interrogatory are due within 30 days. Unlike requests for admission, though, it’s not fatal to your case if you don’t answer within this time. But you should make every effort to answer within 30 days and you should never just ignore the interrogatories.
Requests for production of documents allow the debt collector to determine what, if any, documents you have to support your defenses. Again, your responses are due within 30 days. You only have to produce documents that are in your possession. If you don’t have the document, you don’t have to produce it. In fact, in most debt collection lawsuits, the consumer doesn’t have any documents that they can respond with. But if you have what the debt collector is asking for, you must send them a copy of it. Like interrogatories, there is no fatal penalty for failing to answer the requests for production of documents within 30 days, but you should make every effort to do so and you should never ignore requests for production of documents. Once you’ve answered all three types of discovery, you should send a copy of your answers to the debt collector’s attorney. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself.
A final word of caution: there are many forms available online that seemingly can be used to answer debt collection discovery. But before you just copy and paste from the internet, make sure you understand what the form answers mean and whether they apply to the discovery requests for your case. And be careful with objections. Unless you understand what an objection means and are relatively sure it applies to the question you’ve been asked, it’s probably best to just answer the question.
If you live in Minnesota and want help responding to a debt collector’s discovery requests, 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.
I recently had a client come into my office with a judgment entered against him by a debt collector. He admitted being served with the lawsuit, but thought it was bogus because the lawsuit didn’t have a court file number on it. And when he called the local courthouse to verify whether the lawsuit was legit, the court had no record of such a lawsuit. Based on this information, he didn’t respond to the lawsuit and the debt collector entered a default judgment and began garnishing his wages.
In virtually every state, a lawsuit is started by filing it with the court. But Minnesota is a unique state because a lawsuit is started by serving the defendant. Because of this quirk, a lawsuit in Minnesota will almost never have a court filing number. And the courts will not have a record of the lawsuit until the creditor files the lawsuit and pays the filing fee. But this doesn’t mean the lawsuit isn’t legitimate. If you’re served with a lawsuit in Minnesota, you MUST answer the lawsuit within 20 days. If you don’t answer the lawsuit, it’s likely that a default judgment will be entered against you without a court hearing.
So the first step to respond to a collection lawsuit is to answer it. An answer is a formal legal document that responds to each of the allegations in the lawsuit. Your answer should be in a format very similar to the lawsuit itself. It should have the same caption, which provides the applicable county and judicial district and names each of the parties. The body of your answer should either admit or deny each allegation in the lawsuit. It’s best to number each paragraph of your answer to correspond with each numbered paragraph of the lawsuit. If you don’t know whether an allegation is true or false, deny the allegation. When you’ve finished responding to each of the allegations, sign and date the answer. You then serve the answer by mailing a copy (keep the original for your records) to the debt collector’s lawyer, or the debt collector itself if they don’t have a lawyer. You don’t have to file your answer with the court and pay the filing fee until the debt collector does.
But answering the lawsuit is just the first step. When they get an answer, most debt collectors will serve you with written discovery, called interrogatories, request for production of documents, and requests for admission. You MUST respond to the debt collector’s discovery within 30 days. Pay particular attention to the requests for admission. If you don’t respond to each admission within 30 days, the admission will be considered completely true. You don’t want to inadvertently admit to owing the debt by not responding to the requests for admission.
If you properly respond to the discovery, the next step is usually a court hearing, most likely a summary judgment hearing. Make sure to respond to the debt collector’s motion papers by the deadline provided on the motion. Then, be sure to attend the hearing and explain to the judge why you do not owe the debt.
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.