What is a Ferry & Nicholas letter when I’ve been sued?
Out of the blue, you get a letter from “Ferry & Nicholas, Inc.” telling you that you are being sued. It is natural that you will have questions about the letter so I wanted to go through a typical Ferry letter. I strongly recommend against using this firm to handle a lawsuit against you and I’ll discuss that as we go through the letter.
I don’t know the Ferry & Nicholas folks personally so I make no judgment about their character. And I think their company (which has offices all over the nation) might be helpful in some situations.
But not when you have been sued in Alabama.
I’ll keep the bolding as they have it and italicize the letter and indent it so you know when we are talking about the letter.
Your name and address
RE: [Plaintiff who sued you] v. Your last name
Case No.: [CV/DV/SM (Circuit, District, or Small Claims)-Year suit filed — case number
Amount owed: [amount sued for] plus Interest, Costs and Attorney Fees
My thoughts — use this letter as an early warning system that you have been sued. It will tell you who sued you — that’s the Plaintiff in the “RE:” section.
It will tell you the case number which is listed as type of case (CV [circuit court]/DV [district court]/SM [small claims]), then the year the suit was filed and then the actual case number. This allows you to call the court to verify a suit was really filed against you — you can also call my firm at 205-879-2447 and Carolyn can look up the suit against you and even send you a copy at no charge.
I do think the last line above is deceptive on the letter. It says “Amount owed” — no, it is the amount you were sued for. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars my clients have been sued for. I promise you we have not paid anywhere near that. In almost every case involving a debt collector we pay nothing to the debt collector as they don’t prove we owe them anything.
So this is not what is owed — it is what whoever sued you is hoping for — what they are claiming you owe.
Big difference in owing and allegedly owing.
Ok let’s get back to the letter:
Dear your first name:
Court records indicate that a lawsuit has been filed against you by the above referenced creditor.
It is true — the court does show a suit against you. Now what Ferry & Nicholas calls a “creditor” most often is actually a debt collector. But I will give Ferry & Nicholas a lot of credit for being very good about sending out letters to everyone and anyone who is sued in Alabama on any type of debt. I’m sure with the huge numbers of letters they send out that they make data mistakes but if you get a letter from these guys, the odds are very strong you have been sued so take it very seriously.
The Complaint will arrive via Sheriff or Process Server.
This is normally true — or it may come by certified mail. But the bottom line is you will be served after receiving the Ferry letter. It seems that Ferry gets their letters out the next day or two after you have been sued which is almost 100% of the time before you will actually be served.
Our company may be able to settle the claim before your scheduled hearing.
First, there is no scheduled hearing. If you don’t answer within the time limits after being served (14 days District or Small Claims court or 30 days in Circuit court), then you will lose in a default judgment.
Second, you need to know if this is a case that should be settled or not settled. We often talk about your five (5) options when sued:
- File bankruptcy — very rare
- Fight the lawsuit on your own without a lawyer (so no settlement)
- Settle the lawsuit on your own
- Hire a lawyer to fight the lawsuit
- Hire a lawyer to settle the lawsuit
Finally, if you do want to settle, should you be using a non lawyer “mediation firm” like Ferry? Let’s continue with the letter.
We are professional negotiators assisting debtors in order to resolve their pending claim.
I’m not sure what that even means — “professional negotiators”.
The only folks who call consumers “debtors” are creditors and collectors. It assumes you owe the money. You are in debt to the one suing you. This is why the Ferry letter says “Amount owed” not amount claimed or amount sued for. It is starting with the premise that you owe this money. That very often is a false premise.
Having been successful in hundreds of cases where my clients pay nothing to the one suing them, my “consumer” clients (not “debtors”) would object to the language in this letter.
I’m not trying to be overly precise as I realize Ferry is not a law firm. But it is a national company sending out tens of thousands of letters across the country. So I think — I know — the choice of language is not accidental.
This letter is designed to condition your mind that you do owe the money. You are a debtor.
If you believe that, then you will be more willing to pay money to the creditor or collector suing you. You’ll notice this language continues a little later in the letter.
We will personally contact your creditor in order to reach an equitable settlement beneficial to all parties whereby eliminating needless expense and time consuming inconvenience.
That’s nice they personally contact the creditor. What they really mean, however, is they call the collection lawfirm that sued you.
They make a proposal where you pay money to the creditor.
Now it is not wrong to settle but you have to go through the analysis of your five options to even know if you should settle.
Notice the next line — this really cranks up the pressure on you to make you scared enough to run to Ferry before you even get served.
They want you to not search online (like you are doing right now) — instead they want you to get the letter and immediately call and pay Ferry and pay the one suing you.
Keep in mind that if this matter is not handled promptly your creditor may attach your checking account or garnish your wages in addition to other remedies they have available.
OK this is bad stuff. As we have discussed, you have time limits from when you were served. 14 days if sued in Small Claims or District Court and 30 days if sued in Circuit Court.
If you answer, then the case will normally proceed to trial.
The creditor or debt collector or debt buyer cannot simply “attach your checking account or garnish your wages” until they win against you.
But letters like this cause consumers in Alabama to believe that since the “creditor” has already sued me as a “debtor” and I “owe” the money, my paycheck or bank account is about to be seized.
This is designed to put you in a panic.
Whoever sued you — Asset Acceptance, Capital One, Discover, LVNV, Midland, etc. must win before it can touch you. Until it wins, these are merely allegations that it must prove.
We are not a law firm therefore we cannot represent you in court nor can we provide legal advice. Negotiating our debt is our only business. Feel free to contact our office from 10:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M. Monday thru Friday. Disregard this letter if you intend to defend the claim or have retained the services of an attorney.
Ferry & Nicholas is not a law firm so that part is true. And it can’t represent you or give you legal advice.
Since that is true, how does it help you decide whether to settle or to fight? I suppose its position is you have to make that decision and only if you want to settle, should you call Ferry.
Keep in mind if you settle using Ferry, the account of the creditor or debt collector will stay on your credit report. And you will normally be hit with taxes for “debt forgiveness” in January after you settle.
If you are fine with this and not having a lawyer advise you on your options, then give Ferry a call.
But if you want to know your options, and you want to know how you can get a debt collector off of your credit report and possibly sue whoever sued you, then give us a call and we will walk you through your options.
When you are ready to talk to us — keeping in mind that the clock is ticking on your time to respond once the court believes you are served — call us at 205-879-2447 or contact us through this website and we’ll get right back with you.
Best wishes on whatever you decide to do….