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Ask Dave Kennett Your Own Question
Dave Kennett
Dave Kennett, Lawyer (JD)
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 27689
Experience:  25 years experience in general law, including real estate, criminal, traffic, and domestic relations
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I was recently served with a civil summons for a past debt.

Resolved Question:

I was recently served with a civil summons for a past debt. The debt was with a Sears credit card. Portfolio Recovery bought the debt and they have served me. I have to respond to the summons in the next few days. What do I do. I know I have to respond at the court house and send a certified letter to the Portfolio representative. I do owe the debt. It is about 1000.00 and I would like to pay in installments over the next year.

I have found a couple of websites that say they can produce the proper papers. They are and Are they worth me spending money on?

Please give some guidance. I have the summons (documents) that I could email you.

Thank you.
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
DearCustomer- If you file an answer it will avoid the plaintiff obtaining an immediate judgment by default. Other than that it probably is a waste of time and money since if you have no defense to the cause of action they will likely get a judgment in any event. I generally recommend filing the answer just to make them prove their case. You would deny the claim "for want of knowledge" meaning you don't know the exact amount owed on the debt. It is rather simple to file an answer using the heading used on the complaint with the court name at the top and the parties and case number XXXXX Where it says "complaint" you would put "answer". Below that you would say "Defendant denies for want of knowledge the allegations contained in plaintiff's complaint". Then you would sign it and include your address and phone number just like the attorney for the plaintiff did in the complaint. You would make 3 copies and take everything to the clerk of court and they will file it. Then you would send a copy to the attorney for the plaintiff. That would at least protect the record. If the debt is several years old you can also claim it is barred by the statute of limitations although that is usually not the case unless it has been several years since the last payment or charge on the account. The court would then set the matter for a trial unless the plaintiff can prove that the debt exists and for what amount.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I am still very confused. I am not good with legal things. Could I email you the documents and give me some format or preparation of the response. I really would like to pay this debt. Is there a possibility of working out with Portfolio (through the response) an installment payment plan. And settle out of court. Thanks.

Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
We are not permitted to prepare documents or represent clients from this website. I was just trying to save you the cost of buying forms when I outlined how to do an answer. If you look at the complaint that was filed it has a heading with the court name at the top and the parties listed below with a case number. It should also say "Complaint". Where it says complaint you would take that out and put "Answer". Then below in the body you would put in the language I said to use and sign it along with your address and phone number. You don't have to file an answer if you plan to pay the debt. The plaintiff is not obligated to accept a payment plan but generally they will either do that or take some lesser amount in a lump sum payment. The court will not order a payment plan so you are going to have to work with the plaintiff with respect to any settlement regardless of whether you file an answer or not. So if you don't want to bother with filing the answer then you need to contact the plaintiff's attorney and tell them you would like to set up a payment plan or settle the case. It would be a total waste of money to hire an attorney for this small of debt.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
I understand now how to prepare the answer. Thank you. So one more question - if I give my answer as "Defendant denies for want of knowledge the allegations contained in plaintiff's complaint" - can I still send a certified letter to the plantiff with the answer and ask them if I can make an installment plan. I want to answer the court - but still try to work with Portfolio Recovery in paying the debt. I would rather do this through letter, than by phone call.
Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
Yes you can always try to negotiate a settlement. You can include your letter when you mail the copy of the answer to the attorney. You will have to deal through the attorney and not the plaintiff directly. No matter what stage the proceedings are in you can try to settle the case. Most plaintiffs will want you to agree to a judgment so they are protected and then work out a settlement. If you get a payment plan you should demand a forbearance agreement as well. What this does is protect you from the plaintiff using any other methods of collection so long as you make your payments according to the forbearance agreement. I've see cases where a creditor agrees to accept payments and then sells the debt to some other creditor who is not bound by any promise to make payments and the new creditor starts attaching bank accounts or garnishing wages. If there is a forbearance agreement would apply to the new creditor as well.
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Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
Thanks for using our service. - Dave
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
One more question, please - After reviewing the summons closer they do have an amount - It reads "For the sum of $1,038.04, net of any credits, together with interest therein at the annual rate of 12% from date of judgement until debt is satisfied." Can I still use "defendant denies for want of knowledge the allegations contained in
plaintiff's complaint." I will take your advice at preparing my anwser with this if it is appropriate. Thank you for your wonderful advice.
Expert:  Dave Kennett replied 4 years ago.
Yes. What you are saying is that you do not know if the figure is correct and therefore the plaintiff will have to prove the amount. I've seen cases where these collection agencies have lost the files and can't produce the records to prove the amount and many times they will settle for a very low lump sum. I'm not making any promises but if you don't file the answer they will simply get what they are asking for.