Recently, I have successfully defended two defendants in debt collection cases involving old credit card bills. In each case, my clients (the defendants) either did not remember ever creating the debt or being serviced with the suit papers.
In both cases we reached favorable outcomes because we demanded strict proof that could not be provided by the Plaintiffs. As a result, the attorney for the debt collectors and debt buyers had to drop their case and dismiss the claims.
In the first case, I represented a defendant pro bono on behalf of the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland, Consumer Protection Project. My client was being sued for an old debt that was bought by a debt buyer. My client told me that he does not remember ever having a charge card with the Bank that later sold the account to a debt buyer. Before I was asked to represent him, my client went to court and told the Judge that he did not remember ever having this account. He asked the Judge if he could have the attorney for the debt buyer prove the original documentation, bills, or other paperwork that would jog his memory and prove that he was not the victim of identity theft.
The Judge apparently rolled his eyes and gave my client a skeptical look as if to say “Sure, buddy, you know you owe this bill”. He turned to the plaintiff’s lawyer and asked him for any documentation to support the original bills. The attorney for the debt buyer did not have any of that proof, so the Judge postponed the case, to allow the attorney for the debt buyer to obtain these records.
At that point, my client contacted the Pro Bono Resource Center for help and he was referred to me.
A couple of days before the new court date, I called the attorney for the debt collector and left a voice mail for him saying that I was entering my appearance for the alleged debtor and asking for the original documentation. I thought it was curious that the attorney never called me back. On the trial date, my client and I found out the reason- the attorney dismissed the case the day before! Obviously, he could not obtain the necessary underlying proof of the bill, so he dismissed the case.
If my client had not gone to court and demanded the full documentation, a Judge could have granted a judgment in favor of the debt buyer and he could have proceeded to collect and garnish the debtor/defendant’s monies!