Alabama Debt Collection Lawsuit Questions — Part Fifteen — After Small Claims or District Court Trial
This is our continuing series of articles where we answer your debt collection lawsuit questions. Before we jump into this article (which is about what happens after a trial in Small Claims or District court), here is what we have previously covered:
- Overview of the complaint or lawsuit filed against you
- What does it mean to be served?
- Overview of 5 options you have when sued
- Bankruptcy option
- Fighting the lawsuit on your own option
- Settling the lawsuit on your own option
- Hiring a lawyer to fight the lawsuit
- Hiring a lawyer to settle the lawsuit
- Filing an answer in the lawsuit
- What happens before trial?
- General questions about trials
- Trials in Small Claims court
- Trials in District court
- A trial in Circuit Court
Our topic today is after you try your debt collection case in Alabama Small Claims or District court, what happens? How do you know if you won or lost? Who can appeal? What happens if there is an appeal or not an appeal?
I hope you find this helpful and let’s jump right into your questions.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE TRIAL IN SMALL CLAIMS OR DISTRICT COURT?
“How will I find out if I won or lost my case?”
Usually, the judge will tell you while you are standing in the courtroom. But sometimes the judge will say, “You know what, I’ll consider this. I’ll issue a ruling and you’ll get it in the mail.”
But I would say 95% of the time you’re going to know when you leave that courtroom whether you were successful or unsuccessful, whether you won or lost your case.
And if the judge tells you but you have any doubt, you can ask what it means.
So if the judge says, “Judgment for the plaintiff” – that means the debt collector won. The debt collector or debt buyer is the plaintiff.
But a “Judgment for the defendant” means you won. You are the defendant – the one who was sued.
Again, if you have any questions, ask the judge politely and every judge I know will be happy to make sure their ruling is understood. I would not ask “Why” – just make sure you know whether you won or lost.
“If I lose, can I appeal?”
Yes. You have to follow the deadlines and you have to look all this up on your own. Normally the rule is 14 days is your time to appeal, but you’ve got to verify what that is, or your lawyer will do that for you.
The time starts running the minute the judge enters the order, which normally will be the day of the trial.
The appeal takes the case to Circuit court and it is as if the case was filed in Circuit court. The judge in Circuit court does not care what happened in Small Claims or District court.
“If I win, can the debt collector appeal?”
First, congratulations on winning! That’s what you want.
Now if you win, the debt collector can appeal.
Whoever loses has the right to appeal.
And you’re appealing up to Circuit court, the higher court, and then the case starts all over as if it had been filed in Circuit court to start with.
“If I lose and I do not appeal, what does this mean?”
It means the case is over and it means you lost and you owe that money.
And you can’t come back later and go, “Well, I changed my mind,” or, “I want the judge to do something different.”
Once that time is gone, it is virtually impossible to get that judgment set aside.
It is set in stone. So if you find evidence that you think would have changed the judge’s mind or if there is a new judge or anything else – it really is almost impossible to get the judgment undone after the time period expires.
Note: there are always exceptions but those exceptions are not what this material is about so if you want to know more, get with an Alabama attorney ASAP.
“If I win and the debt collector does not appeal, what does this mean?”
It means you won and it’s final.
And the debt collector can’t come back later and go, “Well, you know, actually you do owe the debt.”
So I’ll give you an example. This was years ago.
A debt collector sues us, we won, and then we sued the debt collector in federal court. We’re talking to the judge about it and the lawyer for the debt collector says, “Well Judge, John’s client really does owe the debt.”
The judge looks at me, and I said, “That’s not what the Small Claims judge said,” and the lawyer for the debt collector said, “Well, yeah, it’s a small claims judge. I mean, it doesn’t matter.”
The federal judge quickly said, “I’m bound by what the Small Claims judge did – that is a real judgment and it is final.”
So it is really important. If you win and the debt collector does not appeal, it’s over now.
This can have a number of implications.
What should your credit report look like? Hint: if you don’t owe the debt, then the debt collector better not be reporting you owe the debt.
Should you have been sued in the first place? Maybe not – depends on the details but you may have a claim against the debt buyer for suing you.
Very important to talk a consumer protection lawyer about what it all means for you – we have sued these debt collectors more times than I can count in Federal Court all arising out of a collection suit filed against our client.
What is coming up next in our series?
We are getting close to the end. In part sixteen, we’ll talk about questions related to what happens after your trial in Circuit court.
Thank you for reading this and I hope these questions — and answers — are helpful to you.
Feel free to call us if you have a question about a collection lawsuit in Alabama — you can call us at 205-879-2447 or fill out our contact form and we’ll email or call you right back.
Look forward to talking to you soon!