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How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Ohio (2023 Guide)

Hannah Locklear | January 10, 2024

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Fact-checked by George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD/MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

Summary: You have 28 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Ohio, and there is no fee to file. Be sure to check the statute of limitations on your debt before responding to a debt collector. Use SoloSuit to draft and file your Answer in just 15 minutes.

"Man, I can't wait for this collector to sue me already!" — said no one.

No one enjoys getting sued for debt. If you are sued, you must take legal measures to protect yourself. Ensure that you open and read all court documents that the plaintiff's attorney sent to you. Do not ignore these documents or the Summons and Complaint itself.

This article makes responding to a debt lawsuit easier and tells you how to answer a Summons for debt collection in Ohio. This includes information specific to filing in Ohio, like Ohio deadlines and forms.

Let's get right to it.

Ohio deadline for Answering a debt collection Summons

You have 28 days to respond to a debt collection Summons in Ohio.

Under Ohio's Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 12(a)(1) states:

“Generally. The defendant shall serve his answer within twenty-eight days after service of the summons and complaint upon him; if service of notice has been made by publication, he shall serve his answer within twenty-eight days after the completion of service by publication.”

In other words, you have 28 calendar days, not business days, from the day you received the Summons. If the 28th day is on a weekend or national holiday, make sure your Answer is filed no later than the last business day before the deadline.

You mustn't miss this deadline. Failure to file an Answer will lead to a default judgment against you. With a default judgment granted, creditors and debt collectors can garnish your wages, seize your property, and even freeze your bank account.

If you want the opportunity to argue your case in court, you must respond to the Summons within the 28-day time frame. Don't put off filing your Answer until the last minute. You should allow a few extra days in case there are complications.

You should also file an Answer and appear in court if you want to make a case against garnishment if a judgment against you has already been granted.

Ohio Answer to Summons forms

The fastest way to create an Answer to a Summons and Complaint in Ohio is to use SoloSuit's Answer form. This form is specifically formatted to fit the rules of Ohio state courts. To fill out the form, just respond to a series of questions about your case, and you'll have a completed Answer in under 15 minutes.

Here is a sample of SoloSuit's Answer form.

If you'd rather create an Answer on your own, here is a general Ohio Answer form you can use to respond. The basic format of Ohio's form is very similar to SoloSuit's form, but you have to fill in all the blanks by yourself. You can always fill this form out on your own, but using SoloSuit's form makes it easier to respond with the proper legal language and wording. If you live in Ashtabula County, use this form

Your Answer has to be formatted a certain way and include specific information. Using one of the options above ensures you craft an Answer that meets the standards set forth by the Ohio court system. The information you include or exclude in your Answer will significantly impact the outcome of your case.

SoloSuit helps you create and file your Answer on your own.

Steps to respond to a debt collection case in Ohio

When you get sued for debt in Ohio, you should receive two documents, either by mail or in person, to begin the lawsuit. These documents are called the Summons and Complaint. The Summons notifies you of the lawsuit, while the Complaint lists the specific allegations (or claims) being made against you.

In Ohio, you must respond to a debt lawsuit within 28 days of receiving the Summons and Complaint. Follow these steps to Answer you debt collection case:

  1. Answer each claim listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File your Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff's attorney.

Below, we break down each of these steps in detail. Don't like reading? Watch this video to learn more about these three steps instead:

1. Answer each claim listed in the Complaint

Developing the Answer to the Complaint can be daunting, but it will be easy as pie with Solosuit and these simple tips.

The first section of your Answer document should focus on responding to each claim that is listed in the Complaint document. The plaintiff's Complaint will be formulated as a series of numbered paragraphs, and each paragraph is a separate claim. Read each paragraph carefully, and determine how you want to respond. Here are the three ways you can respond to each claim:

  1. Admit—this is like saying, “This is true.”
  2. Deny—this is like saying, “Prove it.”
  3. Deny due to lack of knowledge—this is like saying, “I don't know.”

Many attorneys recommend making a general denial, where you deny everything in the Complaint and force the other side to prove everything. When you get sued for debt, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff or the person/company suing you. Denying their claims forces them to prove their case, and if they don't have the necessary documents or evidence to do so, the case might get thrown out altogether.

In some states, you may need to let the court know if you want a court trial or a jury trial. You can also include a counterclaim with your Answer if you feel like your rights under the FDCPA have been violated..

You can use SoloSuit's Answer form to respond to your debt lawsuit in just 15 minutes.

2. Assert your affirmative defenses

After you've responded to each claim listed on the Complaint, you're ready to move on to the next section of your Answer document—where you assert your affirmative defenses. "Affirmative defenses" are legal reasons the case should be dismissed either fully or partially. You can use your defenses to show that the plaintiff doesn't have a case or that the remedy they are seeking is unreasonable or inaccurate. Wrongdoing by the plaintiff may also be an appropriate defense.

Some of the most common affirmative defenses used in debt collection lawsuits include:

  • You are not the owner or a cosigner on the account, and the lawsuit is in error.
  • The contract was canceled before goods or services were delivered.
  • The statute of limitations, or how long a creditor has to file a suit, has expired.
  • You have proof that the debt was paid in part or in full or excused by the creditor.
  • You were not informed of your rights and responsibilities as a cosigner.
  • You did not agree to the contract or debt, such as identity theft or scams.

You should steer clear of a few defenses, including an inability to pay the debt, dissatisfaction with the product or services provided, or personal situations that affect finances, such as divorce.

If you feel you are entitled to compensation for wrongdoing by the plaintiff, you will make these claims as a counterclaim in your Answer. The provided form has sections for counterclaims. If developing your own Answer document, you would make counterclaims after your affirmative defenses.

3. File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff's attorney

Remember, you have 28 days to file your Answer with the court before you lose by default. Don't let filing your Answer be one of those things that falls through the cracks. If you need to, set a reminder on your smartphone so that you remember to file in time

You can file your Answer in person or by certified or express mail. Some courts also accept electronic filing online, meaning you don't even have to leave your house to file your Answer. It is generally recommended to file in person with the court clerk so that if there are any issues with your Answer, you can address them before the deadline.

After you've filed your Answer with the court, make a copy of it and send it to the plaintiff's attorneys. “Plaintiff” is just the fancy, legal term for the person suing you. So in other words, be sure to serve the attorneys that are representing the creditor or debt collector that is suing you before the deadline as well.

SoloSuit can file your Answer for you in all 50 states.

Check the statute of limitations on debt in Ohio

The statute of limitations is the deadline or expiration date on your debt. Each state has a unique law for the statute of limitations that determines how many years a collector can collect on the debt. Once the statute of limitations on a debt has expired, collectors no longer have grounds to sue for that debt.

In Ohio, the statute of limitations on credit card debt is six years, according to Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure Section 2305.06. Likewise, Ohio’s statute of limitations for medical debt, auto loan debt, student loan debt, and personal loan debt is also six years. This means that debt collectors have only six years from the last payment on an account to sue someone for a debt they owe.

However, even if the statute of limitations has expired on your debt, collectors can still file a lawsuit against you. It’s your job to stand up for your rights and bring up the Ohio statute in order to protect yourself in court. If you can prove that the debt is past the statute of limitations, the case should be dismissed.

The table below lists the statute of limitations on different types of debt in Ohio.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Ohio

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 6 years
Medical 6 years
Student Loan 6 years
Auto Loan 6 years
Personal Loan 6 years
Judgment 10 years
Mortgage 21 years
Source: Ohio Rev. Code § 2305.04/.06, and § 2325.18

The table below lists the statute of limitations on different types of debt in Ohio.

The statute of limitations clock starts when the last action is made on an account. This includes payments, making a payment plan on an account, or acknowledging the debt is owed. So, before you make any payments to a debt collector, or admit to owing a debt, check your state's statute of limitations.

Let's consider an example.

Example: Willy has a credit card debt in Ohio, and the last time he made a payment towards the debt was eight years ago. A debt collector tries to sue him for the debt, but the statute of limitations has expired. Willy uses SoloSuit to draft and file his Answer. In his Answer document, he uses the expired statute of limitations as one of his affirmative defenses. After a few weeks, Willy finds out that the debt collector has dismissed the case voluntarily.

The FDCPA can protect you from abusive debt collectors

It is important to know that, even though the law prevents lawsuits for debts that are past the statute of limitations, debt collectors will still try to sue you for them. The consumer must bring the problem of the debt's age to the court's attention to have the action dismissed.

However, the legislation makes identifying whether debts are time-barred much easier. Previously, the statute of limitations fluctuated from four to fifteen years, depending on the debt.

The clock starts when you stop making payments on the debt to calculate the time left in debt for the statute of limitations. Each payment you make restarts the clock, and the debt becomes legitimate again for the statute of limitations period.

In most circumstances, debt collectors cannot continue collecting on a debt older than the statute of limitations, even though you still owe the money. Because the money is still outstanding, failure to pay off the debt might hurt your credit score.

You cannot, however, be legally compelled to pay the debt. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) makes it illegal for a collector to harass you about an old debt.

The FDCPA protects consumers from unfair debt collection practices. Some protections provided include:

  • Debt collectors cannot contact consumers outside the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
  • Debt collectors cannot contact you at your place of work if they have been notified that your employer does not allow such communication.
  • Communication with third parties is limited to the consumer's attorney or credit reporting bureaus unless the consumer gives express permission for the debt collector to do so.
  • If a debt collector receives written notice that the consumer does not intend to pay the debt and asks that collection efforts cease, the debt collector cannot continue to contact the consumer except in limited circumstances.
  • Debt collectors cannot use obscene or profane language in an attempt to collect a debt.
  • A debt collector cannot repeatedly call in a harassing or abusive manner.

You may sue and collect statutory damages if a debt collector violates the legislation. If creditors are harassing you for an old debt, contact an experienced attorney who can help you file a lawsuit or counterclaim and manage the damages you are owed.

Ohio legal aid organizations

Every state has at least one government-funded organization that provides free legal services to people. Ohio has several. You can contact these legal services for help with debt collection lawsuits if you cannot afford an attorney to represent you.

Each agency will have certain requirements for its free or discounted legal services. You will need to contact the agencies or visit their website for details to learn if they will help with your particular case.

Here are the legal aid agencies available in Ohio:

Community Legal Aid Services, Inc.
50 South Main Street
Akron, OH 44308
(866) 584-2350

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.
525 Jefferson Avenue, Suite 400
Toledo, OH 43604
(877) 894-4599

The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
1223 West Sixth Street
Cleveland, OH 44113
(216) 687-1900

Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati
215 East Ninth Street, Suite 200
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(800) 582-2682

Ohio State Legal Services
1108 City Park Avenue, Suite 200
Columbus, OH 43206
(800) 589-5888

Some legal aid services are provided by geographical area. If there is a legal aid organization in your city, start searching for a pro bono attorney. If you contact an agency that cannot help you because of your primary address, they should be able to refer you to the right agency for your area.

Whether big or small, every creditor working to collect a debt must adhere to Ohio's Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you believe a creditor has violated these guidelines, talk to the attorney about a counterclaim in your Answer and how to file an official complaint against the creditor. You can also take steps to keep them from calling and harassing you from different phone numbers during the process.

File a Motion to Compel Arbitration

A Motion to Compel Arbitration can help keep your debt lawsuit out of court. The first step is ensuring that you have a valid arbitration agreement. These agreements usually exist in the initial contract you had with the original lender, so read yours carefully to see if it contains an arbitration clause.

Arbitration is a popular way to settle disputes outside of court. Arbitrators take an oath of fairness and impartiality, allowing you to present evidence supporting your side of the case. Many contractual agreements contain arbitration clauses, and using arbitration can save you from having to fight a debt collector in court.

Solosuit can help you craft a Motion to Compel Arbitration. Consider this example of how arbitration can be superior to a courtroom battle.

Example: Luis owes $7,000 in credit card debt. He could not pay the debt and stopped making payments 2 years ago. The credit card company filed a lawsuit against him, and Luis filed an Answer. He read his credit card agreement and found an arbitration clause. Luis then filed a Motion to Compel Arbitration. In arbitration, Luis explained that he had only owed $2,500 in credit card debt when he lost his job and was unable to make payments. He had contacted the credit card company at the time to ask for an extension. Instead, he was hit with the highest penalty interest rate allowed by law, late fees, and other assorted fees that continued to snowball the debt. In arbitration, both sides agreed to settle the debt for the original $2,500 that Luis owed. Both sides avoided the legal fees associated with a lawsuit, and both were satisfied with the results of the arbitration.

Key takeaways

This article has a lot of information, so let's summarize what you need to do to respond to your Summons for debt collection in Ohio.

  • You have 28 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Ohio.
  • You should respond to the lawsuit by filing an Answer document with the court where you reply to each claim listed in the Complaint and assert your affirmative defenses.
  • SoloSuit can help you draft and file an Answer to your debt lawsuit in just 15 minutes.
  • Don't forget to make a copy of your Answer and send it to the plaintiff's attorney.
  • The statute of limitations on most types of debt in Ohio is six years.
  • Ohio has legal aid organizations that can help you if you cannot afford an attorney.

Once the case is disposed of and judgment has been made, you can begin working on rebuilding your credit after a debt lawsuit.

Good Luck!

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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