If you have been sued for a credit card bill in the Court of Common Pleas of Blair County, Pennsylvania and have been served with the lawsuit paperwork known as the complaint, then chances are likely you received or will receive an order from the court scheduling a conciliation conference for a date/time set in the order. Due to the number of credit card related lawsuits filed in Blair County, the court decided to implement a system for handling credit card collection lawsuits. The system has been referred to as "Credit Card Court." This system is unique to Blair County and, as of the date of this blog post, the majority of courts within Pennsylvania do not have a similar system. If you are from another County in Pennsylvania and facing a collection lawsuit, feel free to contact our office to find out if your County has a similar system to Blair County.
The common creditors or debt buyers that sue people in Blair County, Pennsylvania include Portfolio Recovery Associates, Cavalry SPV I, Midland Funding, LVNV Funding, CACH, Discover Bank, Capital One Bank, Synchrony Bank, and many others.
"Credit Card Court" is scheduled once per month for all of the relevant cases and, as you will see from the order, the creditor is required to bring with them the following documents:
1) An itemized breakdown of charges;
2) The last billing statement before the alleged default;
3) The most recent billing statement of the balance;
4) The terms and conditions (known as a cardmember agreement) as of the date of the default; and
5) Written proof of any assignments (if relevant) - this is needed if you are facing a debt buyer such as Portfolio Recovery Associates, Cavalry SPV I, Midland Funding, CACH, LVNV Funding, and other debt buyers. Original creditors such a Discover Bank, Capital One Bank, Synchrony Bank, Citibank, Bank of America, American Express, Dollar Bank, and other original creditors do not need assigment documents.
The court requires you to appear at the scheduled conference. If you fail to appear at the conference, a default judgment likely will be entered against you for the full amount the creditor claims you owe them. In essence, you lose your right to challenge the lawsuit if you let the court enter a default judgment.
If the creditor fails to appear and you appear at the conference, the lawsuit is dismissed. However, don't get your hopes up on the creditor not appearing. Given "Credit Card Court" is only once per month in Blair County, it is likely the creditors will send their attorneys to show up that day. My experience representing consumers in Blair County is that the creditors send their attorneys to the conference. In fact, each creditor's attorney is sitting at a designated table with stacks of paper, waiting for consumers that have been sued to show up for "Credit Card Court."
Certainly, if you have defenses to the lawsuit such as the statute of limitations has expired prior to the filing of the lawsuit, the debt amount is inaccurate, the debt does not belong to you or the creditor sued the wrong person, or you have other defenses or possible Fair Debt Collection Practices Act claims, you should contact a debt defense and consumer rights attorney to assist you. Showing up to "Credit Card Court" without legal representation is not ideal, but if you do represent yourself, know that the creditor will likely have an attorney at the conference.
Don't confuse "Credit Card Court" with any of the Magisterial District Courts in Blair County. These are separate courts. At Magisterial District Court, a hearing is held on a scheduled date where the creditor must present admissible evidence to support its claims against you. You must enter your intent to defend and you or an attorney you hire must appear at the hearing before the magistrate to argue your defenses including any objections to the evidence presented by the creditor. The party that the judgment is entered against has the right to appeal the magistrate's decision within 30 days of the judgment disposition date and the appeal (if filed and served in compliance with the Rules of Civil Procedure) may end up in the "Credit Card Court."
It is my professional opinion that you should not wait until the date set for "Card Card Court" to make a decision on how to approach the debt at issue. I also do not recommend experiencing tunnel vision and only thinking about the debt at issue in the lawsuit and not your overall debt situation. Often times people might call the creditor or its attorneys to work out a deal or they might show up the day of "Credit Card Court" to work out a deal. However, this might be a bad decision if other creditors will be doing the same thing to you down the road. Ultimately you may be facing multiple lawsuits with multiple settlements via consent judgments, only to realize later on that you cannot afford to pay all of the settlements. Meanwhile, you might be shifting money from necessities to make these settlements work until the settlements are no longer affordable. It is for these reasons that it's worth consulting an experienced bankruptcy attorney to discuss your options and the pros and cons of bankruptcy. I offer a free consultation to discuss your options. Because I help consumers obtain relief via bankruptcy as well as help consumers avoid bankruptcy when it is appropriate (including aggressively defending people facing collection lawsuits or suing debt collectors for violating your rights pursuant to various consumer protection laws), I am able to provide you with a complete consultation that covers all of your options and the risks and benefits of each option.
People always ask me if bankruptcy stops credit card collection lawsuits. Unless you have filed multiple bankruptcy cases within 1 year and those previous cases were dismissed, the answer is absolutely yes. The creditor and its attorneys must stop the lawsuit immediately once you have filed a bankruptcy case.
If you are someone reading this who allowed the creditor to get a default judgment or showed up the day of "Credit Card Court" and agreed to a consent judgment only to realize afterwards that you cannot afford to pay it and are afraid that the creditor will start its execution of the judgment (i.e., bank garnishments or personal property levies), give us a call for the free bankruptcy consultation. A bankruptcy case can eliminate a default judgment or consent judgment just as it can eliminate the debt before a judgment is entered. Although I recommend consulting with a bankruptcy attorney before a judgment is entered given the possible lien issues on your real estate (if you own any), know it's not too late to consult with a bankruptcy attorney after a judgment is entered.
Don't stress about "Credit Card Court", a judgment, or your unpaid debts. Give us a call at 1-866-520-6376 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start down the road to a financial fresh start.