How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Massachusetts (2020 Guide)

George Simons

May 22, 2020

Summary: Live in Massachusetts and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? You can use SoloSuit to guide Massachusetts residents quickly and easily through the process.

Summary: Live in Massachusetts and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? You can use SoloSuit to guide Massachusetts residents quickly and easily through the process.

Have you ever heard the phone ring and worried it would be a debt collector? You're not alone. No one wants to have to deal with money collectors or even worse get sued for a debt.

It's stressful enough when you're worried about making ends meet. Finding out about a lawsuit may feel like too much to take. It might not be realistic to hire a lawyer to help you because if you have money for that you would have just paid your debt off in the first place! It doesn't have to be overwhelming though to address this on your own. In this article, you can learn the process of how to respond to a debt lawsuit in Massachusetts as well as how to answer a summons for debt collection in Massachusetts.

Below you can find helpful information on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Massachusetts, including information specific to filing in Massachusetts, like the forms you will need and the deadlines to follow.

Massachusetts Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

A summons is a legal document that begins the court action. In a debt collection case, this means that a creditor (someone you owe a debt to) is asking the Court to order you to pay the debt. This could be a number of different kinds of debt, including credit cards or personal loans. If the Court finds in the creditor's favor then you are on the hook for that total debt. And, with a court order (also called a judgment) the creditor can legally garnish your wages or tax refund for that money, which means getting paid on their terms, not yours.

One of the most important details to understand right away is the deadline to answer a debt collection Summons in Massachusetts. If you don't file an Answer (your response) before that deadline, then the creditor can ask the court to file something called a default judgment against you; which means that they win simply because you didn't respond. Then they are free to garnish your wages with their court order.

In Massachusetts, you have 20 days to file an Answer with the court after you have been served the Summons and Complaint. There are a few important items to keep in mind:

  • The deadlines are very strict
  • The clock on your 20 days starts as soon as you are served (i.e. receive the lawsuit)
  • Response time can include times that the Court is not open, such as weekends and holidays. If the 20th day falls on one of those days, the deadline would be the next business day that the Court is open.

This is why it's so important to know your deadlines and make sure to file you Answer within that time period. See, the creditor is hoping that you don't respond. They know that you probably can't afford an attorney to help you and they also know that finding out that you're being sued can feel really overwhelming and scary.

Creditors win the bulk of their debt collection lawsuits against people who are behind simply through this intimidation. If you don't respond (and some people don't for the above reasons and more) then they win. They just get to sit back and collect their default judgment. Simple as that. And while it might be possible to ask the Court to set aside a default judgment and give you a chance to respond, it's very rare that this happens.

Once a default judgment has been issued, then the creditor can collect from you. The default judgment will be for the full amount they requested in the summons and you would no longer have a chance to dispute the amount or whether you owe the money in the first place. They are most likely going to do this with a garnishment that takes money directly out of your paycheck before you even see it. This can obviously lead to a worse financial situation that you will want to avoid at all costs, by making sure your answer is filed within that time period.

So now that you understand their strategy, let's take back some power and throw a wrench in the works. Just by filing your answer, you are making this harder for the creditor. They don't want to have to go to court and pay for an attorney to represent them. That takes time, effort, and money on their part, none of which they want to pay.

Massachusetts Answer to Summons Forms

Massachussets courts provides this Answer to a summons form; it's one way to create an Answer in a civil lawsuit. An Answer is required in either District Court or Superior Court. If you're being sued in Small Claims Court (for matters less than $7,000), however, you don't have to file an answer but it's still a good idea since it's your best way to tell the court your side of the story. You can find instructions for an Answer Form here to walk you through the process. You can fill out the Answer form online in a word or pdf document. You can also locate any other forms you might need when seeking Massachusetts debt relief here.

You can also use SoloSuit to do the heavy lifting for you in creating your Answer quickly and in the proper format. It only takes a few questions and we can translate your responses into the proper legalese. Not only will we take care of the drafting for you, we'll also have an attorney review it and file it on your behalf so you don't need to worry about any of the details.

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Massachusetts

The lawsuit starts when the creditor (or plaintiff in the legal case) serves you with two documents in person or by mail. These documents are called the Summons and Complaint. The Summons establishes the lawsuit and the Complaint lays out the argument against you. You have 20 days under Massachusetts law to respond. You can respond by either filing an Answer document or a Motion, although generally, an Answer is sufficient.

Remember, if you don't respond within that 20 day period you will lose automatically, and the Court will order a default judgment. So it's very important to respond to the Complaint. To do so you will need to complete three steps:

  • Answer each issue in the complaint.
  • Assert your affirmative defenses and counterclaims, if any.
  • Properly file and serve you Answer with the court and on the plaintiff.

Below we will address each step in detail.

1. Create an Answer Document.

Step one to respond to the debt collection lawsuit is to create your answer document.

SoloSuit can do this for you so you don't need to worry about all the details.

You will need to include the information listed in the Summons and Complaint and include that in your answer. This includes all of the logistical information, such as the names of the parties. In a debt collection lawsuit, the party who begins the legal action is the plaintiff, so either your creditor or a debt collection company working on behalf of your creditor. As the party being sued you are the defendant in this case. The information in the heading of the document will tell you the Court information as well as the case information, such as the case number and the amount of the lawsuit.

The plaintiff already did the hard part of determining which Court has jurisdiction. Be sure to use the same information in your Answer as was in the Complaint to draft your Answer in the proper format.

2. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

Answering the Complaint is easier than you might think.

SoloSuit makes it simple to respond to every paragraph.

In the Complaint, each issue will be set forth in a separate, numbered paragraph. You can respond to each paragraph with either “agree,” “disagree,” or “I don't know.” Make sure that you list each response with the proper corresponding paragraph number.

A general denial is a tactic often recommended by attorneys because it forces the burden of proof onto the filing party. You should choose “agree” for any information that is true. For example, you might admit to information concerning your identity and the fact that you did have this debt. You do not need to deny each separate claim to win the debt collection lawsuit. Next, you should go on to deny any of the assertions that are not true. For example, you might want to deny the amount of the debt or whether you even owe it in the first place.

3. Assert affirmative defenses and counterclaims.

An “affirmative defense” is your opportunity to fight back and show a reason why the party suing you doesn't have a case.

SoloSuit makes it easy to see all the available affirmative defenses and how to choose the right one.

You can list these defenses in your answer. Typical affirmative defenses can include the following:

  • You do not owe this debt. Perhaps the debt actually belongs to someone else with the same name. Or maybe you are a victim of identity theft.
  • You previously paid off the debt. What if you already paid this off in full? Maybe their records are wrong. Or what if you had an agreement to pay less than the total amount in full satisfaction of the debt with your original creditor? It's possible that the plaintiff who is now suing you (if not your original creditor) purchased your debt and did not verify that it was still owed.
  • You disagree with the amount stated as the debt. Maybe you do owe the debt but there have been so many additional late fees and penalty charges that you believe the amount listed is excessive and out of proportion to your original debt.
  • The debt has been discharged in bankruptcy. Oftentimes third-party companies who purchase unpaid debts for pennies on the dollar fail to check if any bankruptcies have been filed that impact the debt. If your debt was included in a bankruptcy that successfully received a discharge then you are no longer obligated to pay it.
  • You have not received enough information to show that the plaintiff holds the debt. This is not at all uncommon as many creditors sell off their debts to third party collection agencies that were not the original debt holder. The burden will be on the plaintiff to show that they properly own the debt if you believe that they do not.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for legal action. Massachusetts debt collection laws regarding the statute of limitations sets the deadline at 6 years; so, you can't be sued for debt based on a contract from six years ago.

The above are just a few of the many affirmative defenses. For any affirmative defenses that you assert you can attach any documentation as evidence that supports your claim to your Answer. Please note, however, that inability to pay the debt is not normally a legal defense to the debt.

You also have the opportunity here to assert counterclaims, which refers to any wrong-doing by the party suing you under Massachusetts debt collection laws. Here again, with the online forms, you can check next to any that apply, although it is important to fill out your explanation following the counterclaim, and keep in mind that it will be up to you to prove your counterclaims at trial, so be thoughtful about any counterclaims you list. Here as well you should attach any documents or evidence that supports your counterclaim. If you believe that you can prove your counterclaim(s) you will also need to fill out a “statement of damages” form stating how much money you believe is appropriate for your damages.

4. File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

Your final step is to file your answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

SoloSuit can easily handle this step for you so that you don't need to worry about the details.

You could have the best defense in the world and complete the greatest Answer to the lawsuit ever written, which won't help in the least unless you file and serve the document within the proper timeline.

Don't worry, simply complete the following steps:

  1. Fill out the “Certificate of Service” portion of your Answer, which you can find following your signature line. There you can indicate your method and date of service (mail or in-person) as proof you are doing so before the deadline.
  2. Print at least two copies of your Answer. It's best to print three copies so you can keep one for your own records. If you don't have access to a printer at home or work you can try your local Massachusetts public library or an office supplies store like Kinkos or Staples. SoloSuit prints and mails for you.
  3. Mail one copy to the Court. The Court's information may be on the Summons and Complaint you received from the plaintiff.
  4. Mail a second copy to the plaintiff's attorney, which is also listed in the Summons and Complaint.

You should also get together all the documents that support your answer to bring along to your court hearing.

That's it! Then all you need to do is wait to hear from the Court for your hearing date.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Massachusetts

The statute of limitations on all types of debt in Massachusetts is six years. That means if a debt collector sues you for the debt more than six years after the date you last made a payment or had some activity on the account, then you can block the lawsuit. But you need to file an Answer to bring up the defense of the statute of limitations.

SoloSuit makes it easy to raise the statute of limitations defense.

Massachusetts Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Oral

6

Written

6

Mortgage

6

Open

6

Credit Card

6

Judgements

6


Source: Findlaw


(Check out our TBOY Guide on Statutes of Limitations)

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Start My Answer


>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

Every state has at least a number of organizations, often government-funded, that provide free legal services to people who cannot otherwise afford to hire their own legal assistance. These below resources can either help with debt collection cases or put you in touch with someone who can help based on your location:

MassLegalHelp.org

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation.

MassLegalServices

Massachusetts Court System referral resources

Greater Boston Legal Services

Community Legal Aid

Boston Bankruptcy Legal Aid and Pro Bono Services

Key Takeaways

So, in short, here's the review on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Massachusetts.

Make certain you know the deadline and complete the process before it expires. Massachusetts' debt collection regulations allow 20 days to file your response.

Make certain you are using the proper Massachusetts Answer form, or SoloSuit.com, to draft your response. When you fill out the form complete the following three steps:

  1. Answer each issue in the complaint.
  2. Assert any and all of your affirmative defenses.
  3. File and serve the Answer with the Court and the plaintiff's attorney.

Good Luck!

How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection Guides for Other States

Guides for other states

All 50 states.

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