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Since you have received a Summons and Complaint, you must file a WRITTEN ANSWER to the Complaint
In Tennessee a written answer must be filed with the court within 30 days from the date the defendant is served with the complaint. A complaint will normally have short paragraphs numbered sequentially stating the facts alleged by the plaintiff. Start your answer with the words to the effect "Comes now the defendant and answers the complaint as follows". Follow by answering separately each paragraph of fact alleged by the plaintiff. Your answers should be "I agree," "I disagree" or "Defendant has insufficient knowledge to agree or disagree as to each paragraph alleged by the plaintiff."
Consider any facts or various forms of defenses that might support you as a matter of law. Under Tennessee law, you can raise many defenses at the answer stage, and you should plead any relevant defenses in your answer. The contract alleged by the plaintiff may be illegal and unenforceable. A Statute of Limitations may have expired barring suit. For example, tort actions must be filed within one year of the event under Tennessee law. The court may not have jurisdiction over the parties or the subject matter. Deny liability, and always ask the court to respectfully XXXXX XXXXX complaint. Sign and date your answer.
Serve your written answer on the plaintiff and file the answer with the court clerk in the Tennessee county where the suit was filed within the time frame designated on the court summons. Be sure to have the clerk provide you with an officially stamped copy of the answer for your records designating the actual date filed with the court. A clause in the complaint that you are serving the defendant by U.S. mail on a certain date is usually enough to certify service of your answer on the plaintiff.
You want to file an Answer to the Complaint because if you don't, the Plaintiff can obtain a Default Judgment against you. This means that the court will enter a Judgment for the amount requested in the Complaint.
After you file the Answer, you may wish to contact the attorney who is representing the Plaintiff. Sometimes, the Plaintiff (credit card company) will be willing to settle for a lesser amount than is owed and/or will allow you to enter into payment arrangements.
If possible, you should ask that the attorney allow you to enter into a Settlement Agreement for an agreed upon amount and for a set payment plan. If possible, you should try to keep a Judgment from being entered. That way, your credit may be saved. If you don't comply with the terms of the Settlement Agreement, then the Judgment would enter.
If this doesn't work, then at least try to settle for a lesser amount than is actually owed. This is done on many occasions. But, if the credit card company refuses, then ask to enter into a payment plan. The attorney for the credit card company may agree to the payment plan that you suggest (eg. xxx amount per week, per paycheck or per month). If the attorney won't agree, even if the credit card company obtains a judgment against you, you can still request that the judge enter an Order that allows you to pay a reasonable amount per month to the credit card company. A reasonable amount is based on your income vs your expenses. So long as the judge finds your suggested amount reasonable, s/he will enter an Order allowing you to pay that amount.If you fail to come to an agreement with the Plaintiff's attorney, you are entitled to a trial. However, most cases of this type resolve without the necessity of a trial.
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