I recently received notice to appear for a pretrial conference for a credit card bill I couldn't pay, what should I expect.
2 Answers from Attorneys
First you need to take a close look at the notice you received and determine who is suing you, is it the original creditor, i.e. Chase or Bank of America for example; or is it a debt buyer such as Pride Acquisitions, Asset Acceptance, Portfolio Recover, etc.
If it is a debt buyer you may have defenses to the lawsuit against you. You need to carefully look at what the complaint against you alleges. Are they seeking damages under a breach of contract theory? Are they seeking damages under an Account Stated theory? Are they seeking damages under an Account Open theory? Are they seeking damages under an Unjust Enrichment Theory? What is attached to the complaint that was served on you? Did they attach more than one account statement? Did they attach a credit card agreement? Did they attach a Bill of Sale or other documentation indicating the debt was sold or assigned to them? Once you know these issues more clearly you can prepare for the pre-trial conference.
At the pre-trial conference, at least in Miami-Dade County, typically there will be a whole bunch of other defendants being sued by the same company or similar companies for debts. You will probably sit and wait for a while to have your case called. During that time you will be approached by the attorney for the party suing you and most likely offered a "deal."
The deal is typically a monthly payment plan on the full amount owed plus attorney's fees, court costs, etc. They usually are payments from $50 to $75, depending upon the amount being claimed it could be even higher. It will sound like a good deal because you want to get out of that court room as fast as possible. The good deal is not as good as it appears because you will be entering into a consent judgment whereby you admit that the Plaintiff had the right to sue you, you owed the debt and if you don't make your monthly payments they can immediately seek collection of the full amount owed without necessity of further hearing. Simply, if you fail to make a payment they will seek to garnish wages, bank accounts or seize whatever they can to collect on a debt that you stipulated that you owe!
If you don't take them up on the "deal" you will either be sent to mediation or set for trial or the judge will try to resolve the matter by talking to both sides to come to an arrangement. Again, the above scenarios usually not ending in your best interests. I would recommend that you contact a Debt Defense Attorney in your area and have them look at the case against you to see if you have any defenses and help you determine your best option.
I agree with the above. I strongly suggest you see a consumer lawyer who handles debt collection defense. Msay times they will handle these matters, as I do, for very little money and many times they can collect attorney fees from the debt collector. See www.ConsumerLawyerHelp.com for a lawyer in your area under NACA.