The Importance of Just Showing Up – Why You Should ALWAYS Go to Court When You Are Sued
Every week I receive a phone call from a present or prior client who is being sued by a creditor or a company who purchased the debt. “Should I go to Court or am I just wasting my time?” is the question that I am routinely asked.
My answer every time is the same “Yes, definitely go to court!”
Woody Allen is attributed with having said “Ninety per cent of life is just showing up.” Obviously, Woody Allen knew a few debt collectors.
A few months ago I received a call from one of my oldest clients. She was being sued by a bill collector. “I don’t feel very good. Why should I bother going to Court?” Since I represented this client for so many years, I begged her to go to court with me.
The morning of Court, an attorney walked into the courtroom and called out my client’s name. I went over to introduce myself and advise the attorney that I was representing the defendant. “Your client is in luck. The law firm that had this case closed and I have no records. We are going to dismiss the case.”
If I had not filed a Notice of Intention to Defend denying that my client owed the money, she would not have had that day in Court. Instead, a judgment might have been entered against my client and the Plaintiff now would be trying to garnish my client’s bank account and chasing her other assets. If she had not gone to Court, a bad situation would now be much worse.
Even if you have to lose time from work, it is important to force the Plaintiff to prove its’ case. If you do not respond and file a Notice of Intention to Defend (this form is included on the lawsuit paperwork that is served by the Plaintiff or the Sheriff), then the Plaintiff can use documents to prove their case that may not be sufficient in a trial.
Starting at the beginning of this year, it is even more important to file your Notice of Intention to Defend and go to Court. The Maryland Court of Appeals filed new Rules that will make it harder to win for companies that buy debts from creditors. The new standards require these companies to prove the original debt and all of the paperwork in the chain of custody. The new Rules are complicated and I recommend that you read the article I previously wrote about this- cut and paste or click on this link:
Fortunately, you don’t have to know all of the new Rules. If you are being sued on a debt, the burden is on the Plaintiff to prove the case. That is why it is so important to send in the Notice of Intention to Defend and go to Court. Since the burden is on the party suing you, if they do not show up, or do not have all of their records in order, they cannot prove their case and they will lose.
If you are sued for a debt, call me to discuss how you can defend the case. I will review all of your options with you. Remember that the Court does not charge you a fee to file a Notice of Intention to Defend and the Court cannot penalize you for exercising your right to force the Plaintiff to prove their case. The only one thing that is certain is that you lose if you do not file a Notice of Intention to Defend and do not go to Court.
If you do nothing, you will not avoid the problem- the Plaintiff’s attorney will be back soon to try to collect on the judgment!