Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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Let Me Tell You Something Really Important About Getting Sued.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | February 4, 2010

Posted by Cliff Tuttle © 2010

Some plaintiffs, like credit card issuers, win almost all of their cases by default.

When the Sheriff  serves you, the clock starts running.  In Pennsylvania, after 20 days following sheriff service the plaintiff sends you a notice in the mail saying that default judgment will be taken if a response is not filed in 10 more days.

So basically, you have a little more than 30 days (depending how quickly the letter is sent) to file something in writing. If you don’t do anything, you lose!

So, as soon as possible, talk to a lawyer. If you are not sure that this particular lawyer handles this particular kind of case, ask him or her to recommend the right lawyer to represent you.

But don’t give up without a fight. And don’t forget the time limits.

Here’s a story on point that a lawyer I know told me today.  He filed preliminary objections (on time) to a complaint by a major credit card issuer against his client.  It seemed like an open and shut case — after all, the defendant had used the card. But the complaint was not “verified” (signed) by a representative of the plaintiff, as required by the rules of civil procedure.  Instead, the verification page was signed by  the plaintiff’s lawyer, a practice that is commonplace, but usually not authorized by the rules.  After oral argument on this single issue, the judge gave the plaintiff twenty days to obtain a proper verification.

Twenty days later, the plaintiff hadn’t filed the proper verification. Whereupon, my friend filed judgment in behalf of his client against the credit card issuer. Case over — but the tables were turned. Some business organizations, it seems, are simply not equipped to respond quickly, even when the requirements are quite simple.

Here’s something else you might not know about this kind of case. When the credit card issuer sells delinquent accounts in bulk to a third party, who then tries to collect them, the odds that the new plaintiff will be able to prove its case in court are greatly reduced.  This is because card issuers usually give only fragmentary documentation to the assignee. But if you don’t respond to the complaint, you will never have the chance to make them try to prove the case against you.


PS.  Even if a default judgment is filed, your lawyer might be able to open it if you both move very quickly.  But that’s another story.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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