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Plaintiff - Definition and Everything You Need to Know

George Simons | October 19, 2022

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.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

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.

The plaintiff carries the burden of proof.

Summary: In a debt collection lawsuit, the plaintiff is the person or company that sues someone for a debt. Here's everything you need to know about plaintiffs.

A plaintiff is an individual or party that files a lawsuit. For example, in debt collection, the plaintiff is usually the creditor, debt collection company, organization, or any other entity the defendant owes money to. In this case, the defendant is the party being sued by the plaintiff.

Here's a hypothetical example:

John is two weeks behind on his credit card debt. The credit card company tries to contact John but fails to reach him. After numerous unsuccessful attempts, the credit card company sends John a letter notifying him that the debt will be sent to collections. Approximately 90 days after failing to hear back from John, the credit card company sells the debt to a debt collection company.

The debt collector then tries to recover the debt but also can't seem to reach an agreement with John. As a result, the debt collector then decides to file a lawsuit against John to recover the amount owed. In that case, the debt collector is the plaintiff, and John is the defendant.

The word plaintiff is closely related to complainant. In the legal sphere, plaintiff is used more often in civil cases such as personal injury, debt collection, breach of contract, etc. On the other hand, the word complaint is mostly used in criminal cases. This is because the person filing a criminal charge is considered to have a complaint against the defendant. For this reason, the former is often referred to as a complainant, meaning the person filing the complaint.

The plaintiff initiates the case with a Summons and Complaint

When the plaintiff wants to recover the debt you supposedly owe, they'll file a lawsuit against you in court. A lawsuit is usually the last resort when a debt collector or creditor fails to recover the amount owed. Before filing a lawsuit, the debt collector or creditor will attempt to contact you several times.

Unless you inform them that you don't wish to be contacted, the debt collector may still contact you regarding the debt. If you inform the debt collector or creditor to stop contacting you, they're legally required to cease the communication immediately.

They may contact you only when they want to inform you about the next course of legal action. In most cases, they'll let you know that they intend to file a lawsuit against you.

After filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff must serve the defendant with a court Summons and Complaint. The Summons notifies the defendant of the lawsuit, and the Complaint lists the specific accusations being made.

The burden of proof is on the plaintiff

As a defendant in a debt collection case, you may not be aware that you have the upper hand, even though it may not seem like it initially. This is because the plaintiff must prove that you actually owe them the debt in question to win the case. The requirement to prove the claims brought forth by the plaintiff is legally described as the burden of proof.

As the name suggests, it is often a burden the plaintiff carries when they file a lawsuit against the defendant. However, even though the plaintiff must prove that you owe the debt in question, they don't have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that you owe the debt. Instead, they only need to convince the court that there's more than a 50% chance that you owe the debt.

However, the above requirement only applies in civil cases. In criminal cases, the plaintiff must prove to the judge or jury beyond reasonable doubt that the accused, in this case, the defendant, is guilty of the allegations tabled against them.

For example, in a civil case involving debt collection, the judge can rule in favor of the plaintiff if the defendant fails to honor a court Summons. Here's how this works.

How to respond to a debt collection lawsuit

The first step to responding to a debt collection lawsuit is drafting and filing a written Answer. In the Answer, you can respond to each allegations listed in the Complaint by:

  • Admitting: If you choose this option, you admit that the claims filed against you in the lawsuit are true.
  • Denying: You can also deny each claim in the lawsuit if they're untrue. For example, if the debtor claims that you owe them $5,000 but the amount is incorrect, you can deny that specific claim.
  • Claiming lack of knowledge: If you're not sure whether a certain allegation stated in the lawsuit is true or not, you can simply claim you don't know anything about it.

The burden of proof shifts back to the plaintiff when you deny the claim in whole or dispute parts of it. As a result, they'll have to prove that whatever allegations raised against you are true. For example, if they claim you owe $5000, they must prove that you indeed owe that amount.

Speaking of the burden of proof, the jury can easily rule in favor of the plaintiff if the defendant fails to perform certain court-ordered actions. For example, as the defendant, you shouldn't ignore the Summons or any other court order. When you ignore a court order in a debt collection lawsuit, the court will automatically rule in favor of the plaintiff.

This ruling will be passed whether or not you owe the debt. The reasoning is that ignoring a court order is as good as admitting guilt in such a case. It's also important to note that debt collection lawsuits are time-barred. For this reason, you must respond to the Summons and Complaint immediately.

SoloSuit can help you file an Answer in all 50 states.

The defendant has 14-30 days to respond

As a defendant, you have 14-30 days to respond to the Summons and Complaint. The deadline differs in each state. Failure to respond within the deadline is interpreted by the court as admission. In other words, if you don't respond with a written Answer, the court sees it as you agreeing with the allegations listed against you in the Complaint.

Finding an attorney to help you respond to the case can be challenging and cost more than the debt you owe. Luckily, you can represent yourself with the help of SoloSuit and draft a written Answer in less than 15 minutes. SoloSuit can also file the Answer in court for you and serve the plaintiff's attorney (a requirement).

Here's 6 tips for drafting an Answer to a debt lawsuit:

Key Takeaways

The plaintiff is the individual who files a lawsuit against the other party, usually referred to as the defendant.

The plaintiff doesn't need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant owes the debt. For instance, if the defendant fails to respond to the court Summons, the judge may rule in favor of the plaintiff regardless of the debt's validity.

Lastly, even though the plaintiff doesn't have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant owes the debt in question, they usually have a heavier burden of proof. This is because they must also address the defendant's affirmative defenses if raised in a debt collection lawsuit.

Use SoloSuit to make the right affirmative defense and win in court.

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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