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

George Simons | December 27, 2023

Summary: Have you been served with a debt collection lawsuit Summons and Complaint in the state of Louisiana? If so, you should know you are not alone. Hundreds of Louisianians are sued on a daily basis for supposedly unpaid debts. You can use SoloSuit to generate your response in 15 minutes.

We understand being sued for a debt is a traumatic experience. However, there is a good chance you will emerge from this predicament without paying the entirety – or possibly any – of the alleged money owed as detailed in the Complaint. Furthermore, those pesky debt collections calls from collections agencies will finally come to an end. Keep reading to find out how to properly respond to your Louisiana debt collection lawsuit through a formal Answer and protect your legal rights as detailed in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).

A Debt Collections Lawsuit Should be Viewed as a new Beginning

If you are served with a Summons and Complaint for an allegedly unpaid debt, do not lose hope. A good response can help you win the lawsuit and protect your financial well-being. The steps you take after being served with the Summons and Complaint are of the utmost importance. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all.

Below, we provide a helpful guide for Louisiana residents served with a Summons and Complaint for a supposedly unpaid debt, be it a credit card debt, a student loan, a medical bill or another line of credit. The information detailed below is specific to Louisiana debt collection laws:

Louisiana's Deadline for Answering a Summons and Complaint

Louisiana residents served with a debt collection Summons and Complaint are required to file an official Answer with the court within 15 days from the service of these legal documents. Even if you simply respond with a one sentence written Answer such as “I deny ownership of the debt referenced in the Summons and Complaint” it will be filed with the court as an official Answer, preventing the worst possible scenario of a court-issued default judgment.

Failure to provide a formal Answer to the court and opposing counsel within 15 days will trigger the plaintiff's attorney to file a Motion for Default judgment with the court. A Motion for Default Judgment is a document that says you should lose automatically because you didn't even respond to the case: it's like forfeiting a basketball game because you didn't show up. In pretty much every case, the judge will grant the default judgment. It's super important to respond to the Summons and Complaint within the 15 days allowed by Louisiana law.

The Answer Sets the Stage for Success

The aim of responding to the Summons and Complaint with a formal Answer is to get the judge to grant a Motion to Dismiss for you, or to get the other side to settle the debt. It is also possible a well-crafted Answer may get the judge to grant a Motion for Summary Judgment for you.

Ideally, the Motion to Dismiss will be “With Prejudice” as opposed to “Without Prejudice.” The term “With Prejudice” means you can't be sued for the debt again. Alternatively, if the judge grants the Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice, it is possible for the plaintiff to bring the matter back to court in subsequent months or years, keeping the door open for a court decision that would make you lose.

Louisiana's Answer Forms in Response to the Summons

Louisiana does not have an official Answer form for debtors to respond to the Summons through a common template. This is why we created SoloSuit. With SoloSuit, you can create your complete Answer in 15 minutes; we will even have it reviewed by an attorney and filed for you.

You can also make and mail your own Answer. Just be sure to send a copy of your Answer to the court and opposing attorney through the United States Postal Service's Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested mail option. This way, you will have tangible proof that your Answer was received by opposing counsel as well as the court.

Be sure to make a copy of the postal receipts that prove delivery occurred. After all, it is possible the receipts will fade over time. There is also a chance you will spill something on them or misplace them. Make copies and you will have proof in your records that show your Answer was delivered.

How to Respond to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Louisiana

The first step the creditor takes in a debt collection lawsuit is to serve you, the alleged debtor, with two legal documents detailing the supposed unpaid debt. These documents are referred to as the Summons and Complaint. Louisiana debt collection laws require you to respond to Summons and Complaint by filing a formal Answer with the court in 15 days. If you fail to respond in this time frame, you will likely lose your case as the missed deadline triggers a default judgment in favor of the plaintiff (the creditor).

If you miss the deadline, it is possible the judge will reconsider your case if you file a Motion to Set Aside Judgment, but don't count on it. Don't wallow in self-misery after you are served with a debt collection Summons and Complaint. Instead, acknowledge this reality by getting right to work on creating your formal Answer. Send the Answer well ahead of the 15-day expiration date to be on the safe side.

Though you can simply respond to the Summons and Complaint with a brief Answer that denies the debt is yours or denies the debt is accurate, it is in your interest to respond to the litigation with an Answer that addresses every single allegation raised in the complaint. This is also your opportunity to assert affirmative defenses applicable to your case. Once your Answer is ready, it is necessary to file your Answer with the court and also with the plaintiff through Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested so you have proof of service. Here is a closer look at each of the steps that constitute the response to debt collection litigation in the form of an official Answer.

Step 1: Create the Answer

The most important step toward winning your debt collection lawsuit is filing a detailed Answer with the court. If this document provides sufficient detail and addresses each of the accusations made in the Summons and Complaint, there is a chance opposing counsel will not put up much of a fight or any fight at all when you eventually file a Motion to Dismiss with the court. It is also possible your informative response will convince opposing counsel to pursue settlement negotiations in which you settle the debt for significantly less than the amount listed in the Summons and Complaint.

Though the court will certainly accept a handwritten Answer, sending an audio tape or digital file containing your Answer will not prove acceptable. When in doubt, err on the side of being overly formal. Type your Answer in a word processing document, print it out and sign it. This polished approach is better than writing out your Answer with pen and paper. The judge presiding over your case will be more sympathetic to your cause if you invest the time and effort to type your Answer rather than write it out by hand on loose-leaf paper.

Your Answer should have the following “styling” information at the top of the document:

  • Your full name and address
  • The name of the plaintiff (opposing attorney) and their client (the creditor)
  • The court's name and information including whether it is a state or city court
  • The court's address

Do not forget to include the specific case information including:

  • Index number,
  • Case number
  • Amount of money allegedly owed as listed in the Summons and Complaint

Once this information is added to the top of the Answer, it is time to provide your formal written rebuttal to the accusations made in the Summons & Complaint.

Step 2: Answer Each Complaint Accusation

Do not be intimidated by the process of formally answering the Complaint.Take some time to read over all of the details presented in the Complaint's numbered paragraphs. If the accusations made in these paragraphs are incorrect, respond with “Deny.” If the accusation is completely truthful, respond with “Admit.”

However, there is a good chance you will not know if all of the allegations in the Complaint are fully accurate. If this is the case, respond to those paragraphs with “Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge sufficient to know the truth or falsity thereof. These responses should correspond to their numbered paragraphs for clarity's sake. When in doubt, err on the side of denial. As attorneys often say, “Deny everything.” Do not lose sight of the fact that you can always amend your Answer or alter your strategy at a court hearing after the initial Answer is filed.

Some debtors' attorneys advise responding with an Answer that is a general denial. This approach denies everything set forth within the Complaint, essentially putting the ball in the opposing attorney's court, forcing them to prove the allegations contained in the Complaint.

Step 3: Assert Your Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses are fancy legal terms that boil down to the many possible reasons why the plaintiff (creditor) suing you does not have a solid argument. Every potentially applicable affirmative defense should be listed in the Answer, even if you are not completely certain they pertain to your unique Complaint. Some common affirmative defenses include but are not limited to the following:

  • The debt has already been paid
  • The debt has been excused
  • Part of the debt has been paid
  • The defendant is a co-signer yet was not informed of his or her rights as a co-signer
  • The account named in the Summons and Complaint is not the defendant's account

The statute of limitations on debt collection in Louisiana can also be used as an affirmative defense if it expired prior to the service of the Summons and Complaint. As an example, the statute of limitations on debt collection in Louisiana for unpaid credit cards is three years. Once this period of time passes, the debt can no longer be pursued in court due to its age.

Step 3: Filing the Answer

It is not enough to simply pop your Answer in an envelope, slap a stamp on the outside and drop it off in a mailbox for delivery to the court. It is important to make several copies of this important legal document before sending it. Retain a copy for your records. Send another copy to the plaintiff's attorney. Be sure to include the court's address as well as opposing counsel's address and the creditor's address at the bottom of the answer. Send the Answer Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested so you are provided with proof it was actually delivered.

Need help finding your court's mailing address? SoloSuit can help with that.

Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection in Louisiana

The statute of limitations on debt collection in Louisiana places a deadline on debt collection efforts. If the deadline is past, then the collector can't sue you for the debt. Here are the deadlines on debt collection in Louisiana.

Louisiana Statute of Limitations on Debt
Debt Type Deadline in Years
Oral 10
Written 10
Promissory 10
Open 3
Credit Card 3
Judgements 10

Let's consider the example of Jose. Jose has a credit card debt with Capital One. The last time he made a payment on the debt was 4 years ago. If Capital One sues him for a debt, then they are violating the statute of limitations. But that doesn't matter unless Jose brings it up in his Answer as an affirmative defense. Jose needs to tell the court in his Answer that the statute of limitations has passed so Capital One can no longer collect. #SorryNotSorry

Each of the 50 states has a minimum of one government-assisted organization that provides no-cost legal services to residents. Louisiana has two such organizations:

Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Corporation

1340 Poydras St. Ste. 600

New Orleans, LA 70112

(800) 349-0886

Acadiana Legal Service Corporation

1020 Surrey Street

P.O. Box 4823

Lafayette, LA 70502

(800) 256-1175

Key Takeaways

In summary, here is a brief synopsis of how to properly answer the Summons and Complaint you were served with for your debt collection in Louisiana:

Deadline to file an Answer in Louisiana: 15 days

Steps to fight the litigation:

  1. Create the Answer
  2. Respond to the allegations made in the Complaint by individually addressing each in your Answer
  3. Assert affirmative defenses as appropriate to each of the allegations made in the Complaint
  4. Serve the Answer to opposing counsel and file it with the court through Certified Mail Return Receipt Requested

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