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

George Simons

June 04, 2020

Summary: Live in Missouri and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? SoloSuit guides Missouri residents through the process, step-by-step.

“You know what sounds fun? A lawsuit against me.”— said no one ever.

Nobody wants to get sued for a debt. It's stressful and can feel really scary to think about trying to respond on your own. Chances are, hiring an attorney to help you out is off the table, because if you had money to pay an attorney you could have just paid off your debt in the first place! As it stands, you've probably already been working as hard as you can to make ends meet. So to have a lawsuit looming in front of you on top of all of your regular challenges can understandably feel overwhelming. In fact, it may feel really tempting to just ignore it and hope it goes away.

This is exactly what the party filing the lawsuit (or “plaintiff”) is banking on. See, the party filing the lawsuit is either your creditor (someone you owe money to) or more likely a third party who purchased your delinquent debt (more on this later.) And they know that if you don't respond to the lawsuit within a specific time period, then the Court will file something called a “default judgment,” which means that the filing party wins the case simply because of your inaction.

Once the plaintiff has a court order from the default judgment they have more power to collect the debt, most often by garnishing your paycheck or tax refund. So, not only have they won the case against you, now they get to collect on their terms, not yours.

Now that you understand their strategy, let's use it against them. The best move you can make on your behalf is to strike back right away by responding to their debt collection lawsuit. That will make them attend a hearing and pay their attorneys, both of which they wanted to avoid by intimidating you into not responding.

The good news is that the process of responding to a debt lawsuit is likely easier than you thought. This article will walk you through that process to show you how to answer a summons for debt collection in Missouri.

Below, you'll find helpful topics on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Missouri. This list includes information specific to filing in Missouri, like Missouri deadlines and forms.

Table of Contents

Missouri Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

Under Missouri debt collection laws you have 30 days to file an Answer after being served with a Summons and Complaint. Let's take a moment to define some terms that may be unfamiliar. The Summons and Complaint are the documents that start a lawsuit. The Complaint sets forth the allegations against you, such as you owing the debt and the amount of the debt.

These documents will be dated with the filing date stamped on the documents, as well as a dated certificate of service which states when you were served (either or in person or via mail) with the documents. This is the date that you need to start from when determining how long you have to respond.

There are a few important details to keep in mind here.

  • These deadlines are strict and will be enforced by the Court.
  • The clock begins as soon as you are served (officially receive notice of the lawsuit.)
  • The 30 day response period includes days that the Court is not open, such as weekends or federal holidays. If the 30th day falls on a date that the Court is closed, you will have until the next business day to file your Answer.

Knowing all of this, however, we strongly recommend that you aim to submit your Answer (official response to the Complaint) well before the end of the 30 day time period.

Missouri Answer to Summons Forms

The Missouri Court system offers many forms on their website, but unfortunately, they do not have a specific blank template form for an Answer to a complaint. You can review a general sample answer for Missouri here. We will go over below what you need to put into your Answer and how it needs to be formatted for the Court.

You can also use SoloSuit to help you quickly and easily draft a response in the proper format. You simply answer a few questions and we can translate your answers into the necessary legalese for the court documents. Additionally, we'll have an attorney review and file the completed documents, so you can rest assured that all the details and deadlines have been followed properly.

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Missouri

To initiate the lawsuit, the plaintiff will serve you with two documents either by mail or in person. These documents are called the Summons and Complaint. In Missouri, you have only 30 days to respond by filing an Answer. You can respond with either an Answer document or a Motion; usually, it's more straightforward to respond with an Answer document.

If you don't respond within the 30 day period, you will automatically lose your case by default judgment.

There are four steps to respond to the complaint.

  1. Create an Answer document that complies with court rules
  2. Answer each issue of the complaint
  3. Assert affirmative defenses
  4. File one copy of the Answer document with the court and serve the plaintiff with another copy.

Let's check out each step.

1. Create an Answer Document.

The first step in responding to a debt collection lawsuit is to format your answer document.

SoloSuit can walk you through gathering and formatting this information so you don't have to.

First, you'll need to gather the information listed on the Summons and Complaint to draft your Answer in the proper format. This includes

  • Your personal information: address, name, etc.
  • The plaintiff's information: the attorney suing you, the company suing, address, etc.
  • All of the Court information: the name of the court the case is in, the proper division in the Missouri court system, the address of the court, etc.
  • The case information: the case number, index number, or civil number, judge assigned to the case, the amount of the lawsuit, etc.

The good news here is that you don't need to determine much, if any, of this information. You can use the Summons and Complaint as a guide because the plaintiff has already done most of the heavy lifting by determining the proper court jurisdiction and filing the initial paperwork. You will need to create a caption for your Answer that mirrors the one in the Summons and Complaint, listing all of the above information. Once you have created and formatted your Answer document the next steps will help you flesh out your Answer.

2. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

SoloSuit makes it simple to respond to every paragraph.

Step two is where we get to your actual response, which is probably not as complicated as you may have thought. You simply need to read the complaint and then decide how you want to respond to each numbered paragraph. You can respond in one of three ways:

  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • I don't know

Choose one of these responses and write it into your Answer. List each answer with the number for the corresponding paragraph. There is no harm in answering “agree” for information that is true and accurate (such as your name or address.) You do not need to put “disagree” for every paragraph in order to win your case. You may choose to do so as a strategy (more on this below) but as a general practice, it's best to answer each individual numbered paragraph separately, and always truthfully.

This is exactly why the third response of “I don't know” exists. You may not have independent knowledge that the party suing you actually holds the debt, in which case it is absolutely proper to respond that you do not know. If that language feels odd to you it's also fine to say that you lack enough information to respond. As you go through your Answer make sure that your numbered paragraphs properly correspond to the numbered paragraphs in the Complaint.

Alternatively, as we mentioned above, you might choose to respond the way many attorneys do by making a general denial. In a general denial, you deny everything in the Complaint which forces the burden of proof for everything onto the plaintiff's side, creating more work for them.

3. Assert affirmative defenses.

Step three is where you can fight back by asserting your affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense is a reason why the plaintiff doesn't have a case.

SoloSuit makes it easy to see all the available affirmative defenses and how to choose the right one(s) for your Answer

You can also add in any documentation you have as evidence of your position in your response. You'll want to list any and all relevant affirmative defenses in your Answer.

Here are some of the more common defenses we see:

The account with the debt is not your account. Maybe you've been confused for someone else with a similar name. Or what if you're a victim of identity theft? Maybe you do hold an account with this creditor, but it could be that the wrong account number is listed, and you can easily prove that you are up-to-date on your payments through your regular statements. In the last scenario, make sure to attach the statements as evidence in your response.

The debt has been paid or excused. In this set of circumstances, you don't owe the creditor anything. Here again, however, it would be extremely helpful to attach any documentation showing that the account is paid in full or that you and the creditor agreed on a lower amount in full satisfaction of the debt.

The plaintiff doesn't actually own the debt. As mentioned earlier in this article, debt collection lawsuits are often brought by third-party debt collection agencies who purchased the then delinquent debt from the original creditor. That collection agency has to be able to prove that they actually hold the debt in question, and often they cannot provide a paper trail to show that fact.

The debt may no longer exist if it was previously discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding. Those third party debt collection agencies mentioned above often don't check to see if any debts were involved in a bankruptcy case. If it was included in your case and discharged then you no longer have any legal responsibility to pay it.

The amount of debt is not correct. It could well be that you do owe a debt, one that started out as a reasonable amount that has grown into an impossible amount to handle through late fees and interest charges.

The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline for creditors to take legal action against you. Missouri debt collection statutes of limitations vary based on the type of debt at issue between three to ten years. We will examine the Missouri debt collection statute of limitations more below.

These are just a few of the many affirmative defenses. It's important to note, however, that being unable 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 debt collection laws, like the Federal Fair Debt Collections Act. Unlike most states, Missouri does not have its own Missouri Fair Debt Collections Act but consumers are protected under the FFDCP. If the plaintiff violated any of the provisions in this act, such as harassment or unfair practices, it will be up to you to prove your counterclaims at trial, so be thoughtful about any that 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 may 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.

After you've completed formatting and drafting your Answer, including all of your affirmative defenses and counterclaims you still have one more very important take to complete. All of your efforts so far will be for naught unless you properly file and serve your Answer.

SoloSuit can easily handle this step for you so that you don't need to concern yourself with the details.

Here's what you need to do to file your answer.

  • Print at least two copies of your Answer.
  • Mail one copy to the court
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff's attorney.

We suggest printing at least one additional copy so that you have one for your own records and for use at your hearing. If you don't have access to a printer at home or at work you can try the Missouri Public Library System or an office supply store for reasonable printing costs. You'll be able to find the addresses for the Court and the plaintiff's attorney on the Summons and Complaint you received in the mail.

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


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>>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

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Missouri

As stated above, the Missouri statute of limitations varies based on the type of debt. In general, any written agreements regarding money or property have a ten-year statute of limitations, which can be reduced down to five-years in certain circumstances. More specific to debt collections: Medical bills have a ten-year period, credit cards, and state tax debt have a five-year statute of limitations, and auto loans are under a four-year statute of limitations.

This can lead to some fairly long collection time periods. For instance, if you were to ask what is the statute of limitations of debt collection for an electric bill in Missouri, the answer would be ten-years; this is because it stems from a written agreement. If you're wondering why, in Missouri, there is a 10-year debt collection window, the answer is simply “that's how it is.”

Missouri Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Oral

5

Written

10

Mortgage

10

Open

5

Credit Card

5

Auto Loan

4

State Tax Debt

5

Judgment

10


Source: Findlaw



All states have at least one government-funded organization that provides free legal services to people. Below please see a listing of various legal aid organizations in Missouri available to residents who cannot otherwise afford legal counsel.

Missouri Legal Services

Legal Aid of Western Missouri
Office Address: 1125 Grand Boulevard, Suite 1900, Kansas City, MO 64134
Phone: (816) 421-8020
Facsimile: (816) 474-1578
e-mail: lscott@lawmo.org
Website: www.lawmo.org

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri
Office Address: 4232 Forest Park Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108
Phone: (314) 534-4200 or toll-free at 800.444.0514.
Facsimile: (314) 534-1425
e-mail: info@lsem.org
Website: www.lsem.org.

Legal Services for Southern Missouri
Office Address: 809 N. Campbell Ave., Springfield, MO 65802
Phone: (417) 881-1397 Toll-Free: 800-444-4863
Facsimile: (417) 881-2159
e-mail: deanna.scott@lsosm.org
Website: www.lsosm.org

Mid-Missouri Legal Services

Columbia Office
1201 W. Broadway
Columbia, MO - 65203
(573) 442-0116
Toll-Free: (800) 568-4931
Fax: (573) 875-0173

Jefferson City Office
428 E. Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO - 65101
(573) 634-4545
Toll-Free: (888) 476-4545
Fax: (573) 634-2973

Key Takeaways

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

  • The response deadline is 30 days.
  • Use SoloSuit or draft an Answer according to our instructions above.

Do these steps:

  1. Answer every issue in the complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses and counterclaims, if any.
  3. File and serve the Answer on both the Court and the plaintiff's attorney.

Good Luck!

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

Here's a list to guides for other states.

All 50 states.