George Simons | October 19, 2022
Summary: If you're the defendant in a debt collections lawsuit, SoloSuit can help you take a stand and win in court. But first, here's the difference between plaintiffs and defendants.
In a civil case, a plaintiff is the party that brings legal action or in whose name such action is brought. The defendant is the party targeted by the legal action filed by the plaintiff. This article discusses the key differences between plaintiffs and defendants in debt collection lawsuits. More specifically, in a debt lawsuit:
The plaintiff is usually the person or entity filing the case in debt collection lawsuits. So, the plaintiff could be a creditor or debt collection agency.
For example, Jane signs up for a credit card with American Express and is accepted. She starts using the card for most of her purchases, but when she loses her job during the COVID-19 pandemic, she falls behind on her credit card payments. After a few months of missed payments, American Express charges off Jane's account and sells the debt to a debt collection agency called Midland Funding LLC. At this point, Midland keeps contacting Jane about the debt, but she is unable to pay due to financial hardship during the pandemic. Eventually, Midland Funding LLC files a lawsuit against Jane to try to get her to pay off the debt.
In this example, Midland Funding LLC is the plaintiff in the case, and Jane is the defendant.The term plaintiff is related to the word complain. Midland Funding LLC, otherwise referred to as the plaintiff, is filing a complaint against Jane in this context.
In most criminal cases, the plaintiff is usually referred to as the complainant. The word plaintiff is mostly used in civil cases such as personal injury, debt collection, among others. So, if you're involved in a debt lawsuit case, you probably won't hear the word complainant to describe the person or company suing you.
In civil cases, the defendant is the party or entity being sued by the plaintiff.
Using the example above, Jane would be the defendant in the case. A helpful hint to remember this term is that the defendant is the one who must defend themself against the allegations or claims that the plaintiff is making..
The word 'defendant' derives from the term 'defense' and the action of defending yourself against a claim (complaint filed by the plaintiff). So, if you're being sued for debt like Jane, the law allows you to defend yourself against the plaintiff's allegations.
The term burden of proof describes the responsibility one party has to prove the truth of their claim against the other. For example, when Midland Funding LLC files a debt collection lawsuit against Jane, they must prove that she owes the debt.
However, the burden of proof varies depending on the nature of the case. For example, in civil cases such as those involving debt collection, the plaintiff doesn't have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant owes them the debt in question. Instead, they only have to convince the judge or jury that there is more than a 50% chance that the claim filed against the defendant is true. In most cases, the heavier the evidence against the defendant, the better it is for the plaintiff.
On the other hand, criminal cases require the plaintiff to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the allegations being adjudicated.
To further understand the difference between a plaintiff and a defendant in debt collection laws, let's discuss how the burden of proof switches from one party to the other throughout the case. Again, we'll use the Midland Funding LLC vs Jane example for reference.
When Midland Funding LLC files the debt collection lawsuit, Jane receives a court Summons and Complaint. The Summons informs Jane (the defendant) of the lawsuit, and the Complaint lists each specific claim against her. When Janes receives this document, she can answer each claim with one of the following response:
Most attorneys recommend denying everything listed in the Complaint. By doing so, the burden of proof shifts back to the plaintiff. So, if Jane denies everything in her Answer to the Complaint, It'll be Midland Funding's responsibility to prove that she owes the debt in question.
Midland can't seek further legal action against Jane during that time unless they prove that she owes the debt. It's pretty common for debt collection agencies to give up at this point, because they often lack the proper documentation to prove that the debt was actually transferred to them. Jane may be surprised to find that Midland Funding is claiming an incorrect amount too. This is because while Midland Funding purchased the debt, they may not have enough resources or even time to prove the debt is valid..
Since the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, Jane should not elaborately explain her side of the story in her response to the Complaint. Rather, she should simply respond to each paragraph listed in the Complaint, and wait to hear back from Midland Funding (like we said, many debt collection agencies would rather dismiss the case at this point than continue paying court costs and attorney fees).
If, however, Midland proves that Jane owes the debt but she still disputes it, the burden or proof now shifts back to her. For example, if Jane's affirmative defenses state that the debt has already been paid, she'll need to provide proof of this.
Ultimately, a judge might have the final word regarding the debt collection lawsuit. In some cases, the judge may recommend mediation or arbitration if deemed necessary to have the issue solved out of court.
By the time a lawsuit is filed against you, the debt might have switched hands several times, increasing the chances of discrepancies. For example, if the original amount owed is $10,000, a debt collection agency might mistakenly or intentionally add an extra zero to the amount, meaning you supposedly owe $100,000.
Such cases happen all the time, and unfortunately, consumers end up paying for debt they don't even owe in the first place. This explains why it's necessary to request further verification of the debt before making any payments on it. Besides, requesting a debt validation also buys you more time to plan the best strategy to approach the lawsuit. You can do this by sending a Debt Validation Letter.
You can learn more about Debt Validation Letters (i.e. how to draft one, what debt validation means, etc.) in this video:
Whether or not you owe a debt, it's always advisable to respond to a debt collection Summons. Ignoring the Summons doesn't mean that everything has been settled or will magically disappear. Instead, ignoring allows the plaintiff to convince the court to pass a default judgment against you. A default judgment gives the plaintiff legal authority to seek other lawful ways to recover the debt. In most cases, the plaintiff will seek a wage garnishment order which requires your employer to deduct a portion of your wages and forward it to the plaintiff to settle the debt.
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond. You can draft an Answer in less than 15 minutes, have it reviewed by an attorney, and get it filed in the court, all in one stop!
SoloSuit helps people get debt collectors and creditors off their back.
How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your written Answer. It generates an automatic Answer for you, based on your 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.
"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
You can ask your questions on the SoloSuit forum and the community will help you out. Whether you need help now or are just looking for support, we're here for you.
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