Served By a Debt Collector? What To Do Next

Getting served with a debt collection lawsuit is one of the more upsetting things that can happen to you. When a process server hands a summons and complaint to you (or to someone you live with who can accept service), it means a debt collector is dragging you into the legal system.

And while getting served with a debt collection lawsuit is not fun, it is not the end of the world. In fact, that summons and complaint—legal process—provides rights to both parties to the case. Which means as a defendant in a debt collection lawsuit, you now have access to tools to defend yourself.

Let’s take a look at the first few parts of a lawsuit to try to dispel the fear and misunderstanding.

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Supreme Court v. Zombie Debt Collectors

Noting that Midland buys old debt it knows is not legally recoverable because of various state laws preventing collection after a number of years, Sotomayor asked, “Apparently, you collect on millions of dollars of these debts. So is that what you do?”

Yes. Yes it is.

This is a conversation every consumer lawyer has had many times with clients. No, you don’t owe the debt any more. Yes, they can still collect it. Yes, that’s fucked up. Apparently the Supreme Court just learned about zombie debt, and a few of the justices, at least, seem to agree that it’s pretty fucked up.

The decision in Midland Funding, LLC v. Johnson should be out in June.

Current Balance vs. Payoff Amount

Payoff amount and current balance are related but not equivalent terms.

Current balance means the amount you owe according to your statement. The next day, you will owe more. In other words, if you are trying to pay off a credit card and the statement says your balance is $514, you may not be able to bring your balance to zero and satisfy the debt by writing a check for $514. Instead, you would need to contact your lender to find out your payoff amount.

Payoff amount is how much you would have to pay to satisfy the debt. It is not the same amount as the current balance on your statement—at least not for long.

The difference between the current balance according to your statement and the payoff amount is crucial when you are ready to pay off your debt.

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How Not to Defend a Debt Collection Lawsuit

This article is a list of defenses that do not work. If you would rather find out what you should do, click over to “Served By a Debt Collector? What To Do Next“.

Most debt collection lawsuits are handled by overworked and unsympathetic debt collection attorneys. With that in mind, focus on your best defenses to the lawsuit. Here are some of the weaker defenses, which you should avoid.

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“The Governor,” a Cocktail for Erin Murphy

Recently my wife and I hosted a fundraiser for Erin Murphy, who we are excited to support in the 2018 race for Minnesota governor. So I made a cocktail for the occasion, “The Governor.” It turned out really well.

“The Governor” is basically a ginger Old Fashioned. Ginger like Erin. Also like Erin, it is quite strong. If you have a fundraiser for Erin you should definitely have “The Governor” on hand, but it’s worth drinking any time.

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Drug Testing Welfare Recipients is Pointless

There is a pernicious myth that welfare recipients are spending their dole on drugs. It is just that: a myth. And it’s pernicious because it redirects taxes that could be put to better use to pointless drug-testing programs.

Here’s the most recent case in point. Michigan did a pilot program and tested 443 welfare recipients and turned up—wait for it—zero drug abusers.

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Don’t Keep Your Donations to Yourself

Growing up, I absorbed the Sunday school lesson that “when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.”1 In other words, charitable giving doesn’t count in your favor if you seek recognition for it. Don’t brag and don’t be smug.

Fair point. Nobody likes a braggart, and I don’t intend to suggest that you ought to become one.

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  1. Matthew 6:3. 

Your Aloe Vera Gel May Not Contain Any Aloe

The aloe vera gel many Americans buy to soothe damaged skin contains no evidence of aloe vera at all.

According to the Chicago Tribune, if you bought Target Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel, Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel, CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel, or Wal-Mart Equate Aloe After Sun Gel, you are basically just rubbing maltodextrin and an emulsifier on your skin.

This is just the latest example of herbal supplements that don’t live up to their labels. In 2013, Canadian researches found that a third of the herbal supplements they tested don’t contain the herb on the label. In 2015, the New York Attorney General tested herbal supplements from GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart, and found that 80% of them just contained houseplants.

Featured image: “Aloe vera leaf” from Wikimedia Commons.

So You Want to Do Something after the Election …

Here is the Minnesota Secretary of State’s notice of vacancies in state boards, councils, and committees for November 2016 (pdf). There are 74 pages of vacancies for everything from the American Indian Child Welfare Advisory Council to the Noxious Weed Advisory Committee. Most are uncompensated other than expense reimbursement, and many positions have requirements for qualification. But if you want to help with the business of government, there are lots of opportunities.

You can also sign up to receive notice by email when there is a new vacancy.

Two Facebooks: Liberal v. Conservative

If you sometimes feel like you are living in a completely different world than people who voted for the other candidate in this year’s presidential election, you kind of are. The echo chamber is real.

To illustrate the point, the Wall Street Journal built a “Blue Feed, Red Feed” tool that lets you see, side-by-side, what a liberal and conservative might see on Facebook at any given moment. And it’s striking.

The two feeds might as well exist in alternative universes. When you see them side-by-side, it looks like two uninformed elementary schoolers arguing about whose armpits are smellier.

Now, these feeds are built off of some pretty biased sources, but I definitely recognize some of the liberal-side sites. Although I try to have a balanced news feed, sites like Daily Kos, Salon, and the Daily Show regularly pop up in my own liberal echo chamber. Many of the articles on the conservative side are about things I’ve barely heard of. For example, George Soros is apparently a conservative boogeyman in the same way the Koch brothers are for liberals. Who knew?

I’ve gone through my own Facebook page likes and Twitter follows to try to build a more neutral information stream, and you should, too. Get out of the echo chamber and improve your news diet. It might feel good to hear people