What can they do after a judgment?

Discussion in 'Credit Talk' started by hopin, Apr 29, 2004.

  1. hopin

    hopin Member

    I have a civil hearing scheduled for Friday. I am being sued by Sherman Acquisitions on behalf of Sears. I am 9 months pregnant and I'm not going to go to court. I provided notice that I "intended to defend" but I only did that because I was trying to put off the date of the hearing (hoping I could save up enough money for a bankruptcy lawyer... I couldn't).

    So a judgment will be entered against me and, under the advice of some people on these boards, I will wait until after the baby is born to pursue bankruptcy so I can include my medical bills in the BK.

    The question:

    What does it mean to have a judgment against me? What can Sherman Acquisitions do?

    I don't think I will be able to afford this attorney until AT LEAST July (especially now that it will cost MORE to deal with the judgment). Please let me know what to expect from this process. I already have enough to worry about getting ready for the baby... do I need to worry about them coming after my refrigerator?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. jam237

    jam237 Well-Known Member

    What they can do depends on what state you live in...

    They could seize your bank accounts...

    They could garnish portions of your income...

    They could try to sell off anything that you own to try to obtain the amount of the judgement...

    Have you contacted the court (or magistrate) where the hearing is scheduled and asked for a continuence (delay in the hearing)?

    You DO NOT want a judgement!

    Depending on the amount, and where their lawyer is (how far the lawyer is from your court), it could be a bluff to try to get a default judgement against you. But to win, they don't have to show up, if you don't show up, they win automatically.

    But no matter what, you need to show up, or try to get the hearing postponed for medical reasons...
  3. hopin

    hopin Member

    I live in PA... do you have any more specific knowledge of what they can do to me in this state?

    If I were to go to the hearing- what should I be prepared with? I have nothing. I do owe them what they say I owe them-- and I do plan on filing for bankruptcy before this summer is over. How likely is it that they would take any action against me in the next few months?

    Thank you.
  4. jam237

    jam237 Well-Known Member

    As soon as they get the judgement they could almost immediately act upon that judgement.

    For PA, wages & most pensions are safe from garnishment, but there is still a lot that they could do.

    Try to talk with your local magistrate (I expected PA when you said notice to appear. :) ) Hopefully, your magistrate would be able to grant a continuence (they're typically only a month), but you have to find some way to show up to defend yourself.

    It can be far worse if you let them get the judgement, and they serve you with a sheriff's sale notice, to try to enforce the judgement.

    You don't need a lawyer to appear at the hearing. If their lawyer isn't local (the lawyers contact info should be on the summons), the odds are good that they filed to scare you into settling, or to scare you into not showing up, and letting them get the default judgement. They don't make their $ by appearing at the hearings, they make their $ by the consumer not bothering to defend themselves.
  5. hopin

    hopin Member

    They are 2 hours away in York, PA... think they will show? What am I to expect if I do go? The hearing is at 11:30 tomorrow. If they show up, and I lose (which I will, if they show up)-- what steps should I take to protect myself from them? Thanks.
  6. hopin

    hopin Member

    Another question.... my (prospective) attorney said that we have 30 days to appeal--- can they do anything to me during those 30 days? Thanks.
  7. Hedwig

    Hedwig Well-Known Member

    Have you made them PROVE every aspect of this debt? Can you contest the amount, say they haven't provided a full accounting showing all the charges. Have they proved that it's your debt? You don't have to admit to it. You can say that while you think you may owe them, you don't think the amount is correct and ask them for statements. Anything to get a little time.

    And it's your right to have all of this information validated.

    When they sent the initial communication, did they include the mini-miranda (this is an attempt to collect a debt, etc)? If not, say that you didn't know you could request this because they didn't provide the LEGALLY-REQUIRED notice. If they did and you didn't ask for validation, say that you have been so concerned with the coming baby that you forgot.

    Hopefully they won't have all of this and you'll at least get a continuance. At best, the suit could actually be dismissed.
  8. tr1252

    tr1252 Well-Known Member

    As the other posters have mentioned, it is IMPERATIVE that you show up! Don't quote me on this because I'm NOT a lawyer, but I believe you can ask for a CONTINUANCE, which is essentially an extension. And you can do so WITHOUT a lawyer present. When they see your condition, being 9 months pregnant, you should have no problem.

    On another note, I'm also in PA. My GF lives in York. I had no idea that Sherman is also located there. Or is that just a branch office?

    At any rate, good luck!
  9. Poochie

    Poochie Well-Known Member

    Ok, I'm not an attorney either but you might want to ask your prospective attorney if a "suggestion of bankruptcy" will do anything for you. Definitely go to court, ask for a continuence due to pregnancy, need to validate debt, anything at all you can throw out there. That will buy you 30 days...

    I'm so sorry you're going through this now, I know how stressful the last few weeks of pg are.

    Good luck to you

  10. jefftsnsco

    jefftsnsco Active Member

    Definitely go to court. Especially 9 months pregnant. No, the plaintiff's counsel won't show up, as they expect the matter to be handled "on the papers". Here's where the judge, and just about everyone else will be sympathetic to your case, especially in your condition. Anything the judge can legally extend to you, he will.

    However, you will have to defend yourself, if your pro se. I'm only familiar with my state's practice book, so your state is probably different. But basically, first, they file a line item suit against you, listing each relevant claim which contributes to the case they have against you. For example:

    1) Defendant applied a credit card and agreed to the membership agreement.
    2) Defendent made a gosh darn lot of charges on the account.
    3) Defendent didn't pay us.
    4) The agreement says defendant has to pay, our lawyers's fees, and name her firstborn after our president.

    You then have to file an ANSWER to their suit. The answer, in my state, being a general defense (I deny everything), or a special defense (I deny line item 4), and/or a counterclaim such as "they violated some other law for which I am entitled to bring suit, but they were nice enough to save me the filing fees and bond for court costs by filing suit against me first." :)

    Prior to filing your answer, however, you need to have all the facts, and you would get this through a motion for DISCOVERY where you send the plaintiff's counsel a list of all the documents you want them to produce that are relevant to the case. depending upon your state, you may or may not be responsible for the costs of making copies for discovery. You can also file interogatories, lists of questions you want answered, and you can also depose (question under oath) the plaintiff. I would assume that in all states, you are responsible for bearing the cost of the stenographer. The goal of discovery is to make them prove the ENTIRE debt they are claiming. Also, if you have a counterclaim, you now have the opportunity to investigate it as well, prior to actually bringing the claim.

    If bankruptcy is a realistic possiblity for you, I would advise making the plaintiff's attorney aware of that and he will have to notify his client. Now, if your discovery is vast enough to start running up the tab more than they would like to bear (win or lose), they may wish to make a settlement arrangement with you, if at all possible. Most client's prefer cash rather than a judgement that is uncollectible. Cash buys toilet paper; uncollectible judgements are very uncomfortable toilet paper.

    BTW, in my state, just prior to filing your motion for discovery, you file a motion for extension for time to file your answer so you can complete your discovery before filing your answer. You can drag the whole process out, if that's your goal, or make it expensive for them to win, and either they will be more inclined to settle or perhaps withdraw the suit.

    One thing you should never do is file a false or misleading answer. In my state, if the judge thinks your jerking him around it's an automatic $500 fine or worse. The whole point is, you have to run everything legitimately, but you are entitled to run it as far as you can.

    Good Luck.
  11. hopin

    hopin Member

    I am heeding your advice and heading out to court this morning. If they show up, I will lose- and I have questions about that. I am under the impression that wages can't be garnished in PA correct? But my bank accounts are fair game. What should I do about that? Also, as I asked earlier-- my prospective attorney said I would have 30 days to appeal the decision--- can they start seizing my stuff before the 30 days are up?

    To answer a question about Sherman's location...

    It is an attorney in York, PA who seems to be under the "Wolpoff & Abrahamson" umbrella, who is representing Sherman. These Wolpoff people seem to be everywhere.

    Wish me luck! I have nerves!

  12. pd11604

    pd11604 Well-Known Member

    Close your local bank accounts, use an out of state bank or credit union or something like paypal to transfer funds in/out of. Use money orders to pay your bills.

    It is inconvenient but it can throw them off until you file for BK.

    PA Rules of Civil Procedure #3101-3159 have to do with enforcement of money judgments
    I should tell you there what they can take after a judgment is entered

    Good Luck
  13. jefftsnsco

    jefftsnsco Active Member

    Good luck in court. In the unlikely event that opposing counsel shows, you will not automatically "lose" as long as you have ANY sort of legitimate defense or counterclaim against them. This means you need to get familiar with everything on the board here. Even if the debt is clearly yours, you have a legal right to MAKE THEM PROVE IT. This process is very much like validation only you can force them, through discovery, interogatories, and depositions, to disclose information they may otherwise prefer not to reveal.

    Valid counterclaims are ANYTHING that would help you set off the debt. Read EVERYTHING here. FCRA, FDCPA, TLA, FCBA violations are all fair game. Even if you think your argument is weak, as long as it is legitimate, you can use it as a counterclaim.

    I just re-read your orginal posts and I'd like to address a few issues concerning your time constraints and BK.

    First, you can absolutely drag out the case until you can afford counsel to appear on your behalf. re-read my previous post. Find out what the procedures are to defend yourself in your state. Even though the judge, the clerks, and anybody else in court is prohibited from offering legal advice, they'll take one look at you and offer as much helpful advice as they can. Take it. Follow it. Don't try to BS the judge and say it's not my debt, just tell him or her that you don't agree with the amount, you have a valid counterclaim, or you are trying to reach a settlement with the creditor. Judge's love when things are settled out of court because our overworked courts should only be used as a last resort.

    On that note, if, at some time, you can afford an attorney, can you use that money, instead, to reach a settlement agreement with the creditor? Anything you offer to the lawyer has to be relayed to the client for consideration, no matter how much you insults you for your low-ball offer. If you can offer up convincing evidence that you are headed for BK if you can't settle the debt, then they could be inclined to settle for 20-30 cents or even less. Are you deliquent on utilities, taxes, medical bills, car payments, mortgages, rent, or any other necessities of life? If so, it may be beneficial to disclose this to Sears' attorney, even to the extent that you provide photocopies of said delinquency notices (only if requested, of course). Remember, creditors want money, not judgements. However, if they think you're holding out on them and your "best offer" is unacceptable, then, I say, screw them, drag it on as long as it s convenient to you, and if they get a judgement against you that you can't re-open (always try to reopen judgements), then file for BK.

    As for BK, I have heard that Sears is one of the few creditors that will actually give you a hard time in BK court. Perhaps others can shed some light on this.

    Also, MEDICAL BILLS are generally non-dischargable in BK. You are stuck with them. Again, perhaps others can shed some light here. I would suggest, however, if you are doing this poorly financially, look ANYWHERE for assistance with medical bills. Check with the hospital, your church, and the state to see if there is any help available to pay your hospital bills or reduce the amount you are responsible for.
  14. jefftsnsco

    jefftsnsco Active Member

    Oh, yes, asset protection. You were also concerned about that. Any suggestions I make are only useful in certain states, so you need to look into your specific situation. Also, some of these ideas may be draconian or simply unworkable for you.

    Keep in mind that many actions you take at this point (even before a judgement) can be treated as a "badge of fraud" under fraudulent conveyence laws and can therefore be reversed by the court should the creditor REALLY want to chase you.

    Some states have very liberal laws as far as disclosing ownership of certain business structures such as LLCs. You can operate out of an LLC for a while. Sooner or later, the creditor can make a motion for discovery of your assets or something like that, where you will be compelled, under oath, to reveal what you own.

    If you're married, and your spouse is not beng sued, you may be able to transfer everything to him so you have no assets.

    You can contact an attorney regarding setting up a trust fund.

    Have a friend sue you and give him a stipulated judgement against you (beat the other guys to the punch). Then he takes out a lien on your house. Any other creditor will have to buy him out first. Although more work, and a matter of public record, and potentially negative on your credit reports, this would probably receive less scrutiny than simply granting him a mortgage.

    Quit your W-2 job. Work only as a 1099 contractor.

    I hate to keep a checking account in my own name when there a judgements against me floating around. Again, the biz idea, with it's own tax id, will keep creditors out. More risky, but less hassle, are using credit unions or out of state banks.
  15. pd11604

    pd11604 Well-Known Member

    I think you are confusing medical bills and student loans. Medical bills are always dischargeable !!!
  16. jefftsnsco

    jefftsnsco Active Member

    I have friends who could not get their medical bills discharged. I don't know if it's a state by state issue or what. Definitely check on this in your home state. And, yes, student loans, under many circumstances (BUT NOT ALL), are non-dischargable.
  17. fun4u2

    fun4u2 Well-Known Member

    justa suggestion I heard this somewhere, if its different in each state I dont know but an attorney might.

    that if you open a bank acct and have a minor name attached to it such as in trust for no debt collector can attach it
  18. hopin

    hopin Member

    WSHEW... it's over. The lawyer did show and tried to take me outside for some last minute "bargaining" (I use that term in quotes because he essentially asked me to settle for the amount he is suing me for--- ????). I politely declined but told him I would be willing to see what he had to offer in writing, along with a validation of the debt. SO... we went inside, the judge seemed to know nothing about this type of case (the lawyer seemed to be explaining to the judge what was going on). The lawyer said something about his "witness" not showing up (WHO could that have been?!)-- so the hearing was postponed until June 29th! Wohoo! That gives me plenty of time to file for BK and not have to worry about switching banks.

    I am really really grateful to you all for your insistence on my attending the hearing. Had I not went I would have already lost. Now this judgment will never see the light of day and will be one less thing to deal with in my BK proceedings. Now I can give birth in peace and not have this hanging over my head. Thank you all!!!!
  19. tr1252

    tr1252 Well-Known Member

    That's GREAT news! And when June 29th rolls around, don't forget your right to file a motion for discovery, your right to file a motion for extension, and of course, a continuance. As you can see, showing up today was the RIGHT thing to do!
  20. jefftsnsco

    jefftsnsco Active Member

    Is BK the only option? I would consult an accountant in addition to an attorney. The attorney gets paid if you file bankruptcy, not if he talks you out of it, so, as honest a guy as he may be, if you come in and say "I want BK", he's just going to give you want you are asking for, and not necessarily what you need.

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