What if I win my Small Claims or District Court collection case?
“What if I win my Small Claims or District Court collection case?”
First, congratulations on winning!
Most people never answer the lawsuit, so they lose.
And even when they answer the collection suit, most don’t show up to their own trial! So they lose.
And the ones that do show up, often settle as they don’t understand that the collector (Asset Acceptance, Cavalry, LVNV, Midland, Portfolio, etc) has to prove you owe the debt and that it owns the debt.
But you made it through all of these pitfalls and you won — congrats!
Second, remember the losing side can always appeal.
Although, this is not very common.
The collector has 14 days from losing to appeal. The reason this is not done very often is normally the same result will happen in Circuit court (where you appeal to from small claims or district court) so it just takes time and expenses when the outcome is pretty clear.
Third, winning your case normally means you do not owe the debt.
You were sued with the claim being you owed the debt buyer (collector) money. That is not true if you won your case.
We won’t go into all the legal arguments, but this is a position we have held successfully for many years.
Fourth, since you don’t owe the debt, there can’t be credit reporting by the debt collector saying you owe the debt (since you had a judge say you don’t owe the debt). This makes sense.
If you don’t owe the debt, then what is there for the collector to credit report?
The whole point of credit reporting by a debt collector is to say “You owe $___ to us” but if the judge said you don’t, then there is no way for the collector to say this!
Fifth, if there was credit reporting at any time by the debt collector on this “debt” (the one you don’t owe) then this normally violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
Since you don’t owe the debt, why was there any credit reporting in the past? Debt collectors are not allowed to credit report on a debt you don’t owe.
Sixth, the lawsuit itself against you may be in violation of the FDCPA as you don’t owe the debt but you got sued for owing a debt.
We often see these debt buyers suing folks that don’t owe the debt buyer any money. Including one case where the debt buyer (Main Street) sued our client twice –, it lost the first case and then sued again on the same debt it knew our client did not owe!
Seventh, the debt collector can’t ever collect this debt against you again as you don’t owe it. Collectors are not allowed to collect a debt you don’t owe so this is pretty easy for collectors to understand. But sometimes their greed takes over and they think they can collect against you and you won’t do anything about it.
This is a great time to prove them wrong!
Eighth, if the debt collector ever sells or transfers the debt, this will normally violate the FDCPA and the new debt collector will be violating the FDCPA as there will be illegal debt collection on a debt you don’t owe.
Finally, if any of the above has happened, you need to look at whether you can sue.
Whether that’s suing under the FDCPA, perhaps under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), malicious prosecution, etc.
We often file these lawsuits in Federal Court but there are some strict time limits involved so get in touch with us if you are interested in talking.
Typically you have one year from the date of the FDCPA violation (remember there can be multiple ones) to sue and you have 2 years for most state law claims under Alabama law.
If you sue, this tends to make the debt collector leave you alone. They may owe you money damages and you can make sure this comes off of your credit report.
Bottom line is when you win your case, you should talk to a lawyer who knows about suing debt buyers in Federal Court to see what your options are.
If you are in Alabama then we will be happy to chat with you about this or if you have not yet won your case but you are looking to evaluate whether to fight the collector or not, we will be happy to help you analyze your options.
You can call us at 205-879-2447 or send us a message through our website here.
John G. Watts
Watts & Herring, LLC
Birmingham and Madison Offices in Alabama
We represent consumers from all parts of Alabama