Legal Question in Credit and Debt Law in Pennsylvania

I hired an atty. to defend a judgement. Atty. failed to get the case dismissed on technicalities, I paid him with that supposition. Arbitration occurred in Jan of 13 I wasn't notified that he Iost until Mar. Now atty has blocked my acct. What can I do? I did not have the opportunity to represent myself as I was advised not to, the last payment was in 2005... PA law? SOL?

Asked on 10/09/13, 3:52 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

The statute of limitations is a defense that you assert in court. The statute of limitations will depend on what type of case is being brought - generally its 2 years for negligence/personal injury and 4 years for contracts.

If for a contract (say for money owed or a credit card or other personal loan debt) the 4 year statute of limitations would begin to run from the date of your last payment. So if the last payment was in 2005, the statute of limitations would have run in 2009. You do not indicate when the complaint was filed. However, I cannot imagine why, if you had a valid statute of limitations defense, a competent attorney would not assert that in an answer and why that would not prevail. So there has to be more to the story than you are relating here.

Many things in your story do not make much sense. First, attorneys do not "defend" a judgment. What does this even mean? Do you mean you were sued and you hired an attorney to defend you?

Why do you blame the attorney for "failing" to get the case dismissed on technicalities. What attorney would promise you that could even happen? I don't know what "technicalities" you are referring to. There is no such thing for a civil suit. Assuming that a civil action was filed, it is up to you to deny the allegations or explain why the plaintiff is not entitled to win. Statute of limitations and other defenses are just that - defenses. These are not "technicalities."

You say arbitration occurred. Was this judicial arbitration? Cases under a certain dollar amount (it is $25,000 in some counties and $50,000 in others) get heard by a panel of arbitrators (lawyers). The party who loses has a right to appeal. I do not know why you failed to attend the arbitration hearing (assuming you were notified in advance of the hearing date) or why it took 2 months to inform you.

I also do not understand how your attorney has "blocked" your account. This is not possible. It may be more likely that the plaintiff who sued you recovered a money judgment and sought to execute on that judgment in order to collect. PA law provides very limited exemptions - you are allowed to retain up to $300 in any one bank account unless the funds are from an exempt source like Social Security, unemployment, VA benefits, retirement benefits and so on. If you did not claim an exemption, the money could be seized and turned over to the judgment creditor.

I do not understand who "advised" you not to represent yourself. Its good advice - if you can afford to hire counsel, it may make sense to do it in most cases. But that does not mean that you cannot represent yourself. And if your lawyer was not effective then it was up to you to fire him/her and get someone else.

As I said, much is missing and this is not the forum to air the details. Depending on what kind of case you may have, you might want to see if another lawyer can review the file and what all happened here. Once you know what happened and why, then you need to decide what to do. That can range from doing nothing, to working out arrangements to settle/pay the judgment to trying to get the judgment opened to filing bankruptcy if this debt is a dischargeable debt and you have at least $10,000 in dischargeable debts. Which of these options is right for you would depend on your circumstances

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Answered on 10/09/13, 7:36 pm

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