New York City Debt Collection Defense Attorney
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New York City Debt Collection Defense Attorney

Debt Collection Lawsuits: Fight Back.

Jesse Langel and The Langel Firm are honored to use our expertise to fight your debt collection lawsuit. We defend you in litigation against debt collection cases of all types. The Firm has developed a way to deliver a high-quality legal defense while offering manageable fee structures to clients. Whatever the debt type, we aim to obtain the best results possible, whether to defeat it in court, settle it, or develop a counterclaim.

Whether a bank is suing you (e.g., Bank of America, Chase, Capital One) or a debt buyer (e.g., Midland Funding, LLC, Cavarly Portfolio Services, LLC, or Palisades Collection, LLC), we challenge every element of the case brought against you, including notice; ownership; amount; interest' fees; governing law; contract; disclosures and terms; time expiration or "statute of limitations"; attorneys involved; court house; and other factors which we consider relevant and advantageous.

Regardless of the debt status—pre-lawsuit v. post-lawsuit—The Langel Firm can help you position yourself with your best legal defenses.

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What are the Stages of A Collection Lawsuit?

The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Filing a complaint: The creditor or collection agency (the plaintiff) files a complaint with the court, which outlines the basis of the lawsuit, including the amount of money that is owed and why the debtor is responsible for the debt.

  2. Serving the complaint: The debtor (the defendant) must be served with a copy of the complaint and a summons, which informs them of the lawsuit and explains how much time they have to respond.

  3. Answering the complaint: The debtor has the opportunity to respond to the lawsuit by filing an answer with the court. In the answer, the debtor can dispute the allegations in the complaint, assert any defenses, and even assert counterclaims against the plaintiff.

  4. Discovery: This is the pre-trial phase where both parties gather evidence from each other to prepare for trial. This can involve exchanging documents, conducting depositions, and submitting interrogatories (questions that must be answered under oath).

  5. Trial: If the case is not resolved during the discovery phase, it will proceed to trial. Both parties will present their case, and the judge or jury will make a decision.

  6. Judgment: If the court decides in favor of the plaintiff, a judgment will be entered against the debtor for the amount of money that is owed, plus any additional costs or interest that the court allows. Once a judgment is entered, the creditor has the legal right to seize assets or garnish wages to satisfy the debt.

How to Respond to a Summons and Complaint in New York City

Your Response Timeline in a New York Debt Collection Lawsuit

When a summons and complaint document is allegedly "served" on you, the clock starts ticking for you to formulate a response. The time you have to do so varies based on how you received the documents.

  • You have a 20-day window to respond if the summons and complaint were delivered to you in person. However, if these documents were served to you in any other way, you get a longer period of 30 days to respond.

Where to File an Answer to a Collection Lawsuit?

A response entails the filing of an answer to the complaint with the court clerk. Go to the courthouse that is listed on the Summons. This answer will include your response to the plaintiff's claims, along with any potential legal defenses that could hinder the plaintiff's ability to collect the debt. Your response can be delivered in writing or, in some New York courts, directly to the court clerk in person.

Responding to a Summons in Person in New York

For a personal response, you'll need to visit the relevant New York court and connect with the court clerk. If you're in New York City, you can find court locations from the New York City Civil Court's list. For courts outside NYC, refer to the New York State Court System's contact list.

Upon meeting the clerk, confirm that in-person responses are accepted for debt collection lawsuits. The clerk will guide you to the Consumer Credit Transaction Answer In Person form. This document includes a list of potential defenses for your case. Once you've filled it out, you'll receive a copy that you also need to send to the plaintiff. The court might do this on your behalf, so check with the clerk.

Make sure to store your copy securely as it will be needed when you present your case in front of the judge.

Responding to a Summons in Writing

If you opt to respond in writing, you're free to use your own form or a free Civil Court form. A sample copy of this form for NYC cases can be found on If your case is outside New York City, you can use this form as a reference. Once you've filled out the form, hand it over to the court clerk at the courthouse where the lawsuit was filed. You'll receive a copy that needs to be sent to the plaintiff. Confirm with the clerk whether the court will mail the copy or if you should do it.

Before the court officially files your response, it must be verified by a notary public or court clerk. This step is your attestation that all the information on the form is accurate to the best of your knowledge. Don't forget to keep a copy of the response for your records, as you'll need it when you argue your case in court.

What's the Risk of Not Responding to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in New York?

Answering the complaint is of utmost importance! Failure to respond can simplify the path to victory for the debt collector, exposing you to severe collection methods like wage garnishment, levies on your bank account, or even confiscation of personal property.

Feeling overwhelmed is normal, and it might be tempting to avoid addressing the lawsuit. You might even believe that not responding could obstruct the plaintiff's chances of winning. However, the reality is the opposite. Not responding could lead the court to issue a default judgment against you. In such a case, the plaintiff wins by default, and the court orders you to repay the entire debt. This order could also include additional costs like legal fees and accrued interest.

Considering the severe implications of a court-issued default judgment, it's typically in your best interest to promptly answer the summons.

Common Defenses in Debt Collection Lawsuits in New York

When dealing with a debt collection lawsuit in New York, you're required to detail your defense(s) in your response. Your defense is basically your rationale for why you believe the plaintiff should not win the lawsuit. The New York Court website provides a comprehensive list of standard defenses.

For instance, a general denial can be your defense if you dispute the accuracy of the plaintiff's complaint, or if you're uncertain about the details in the complaint.

It's important to remember that your case could potentially involve multiple defenses. When arguing your defense(s) before the judge, ensure to bring documents or any other evidence to back your claims.

Disputes Regarding the Claimed Collection Amount

You can use this defense if the plaintiff is trying to collect a debt you don't owe or is claiming the wrong amount for a debt you do owe.

Here are some specific examples:

  • I don’t owe any money to the plaintiff.
  • I’m being mistaken for someone else or I’m a victim of identity theft.
  • I have already settled the debt the plaintiff is trying to collect.
  • The sum the plaintiff is suing me for is inaccurate.
  • The contract is unconscionably unfair. This can be used if the plaintiff is relying on a contract to recover a debt, but the terms are excessively unjust.
  • You assert unjust enrichment. This is applicable if the plaintiff is trying to collect a considerably larger amount than you owe, even after including litigation costs, court fees, and interest.

If you need help, call us at (888) 271-7109, or complete this form.

Disputes Related to the Plaintiff’s Ability to Collect the Debt

Debt collectors have a three-year window to attempt to collect a debt, and they must also prove that they are the legal owners of the debt.

Here are some defense examples related to the plaintiff’s ability to collect the debt:

  • The statute of limitations has expired. In New York, a plaintiff has three years from the date you default on a debt to file a lawsuit.
  • The plaintiff doesn't have the legal right to sue because they don't own the debt.
  • The plaintiff lacks the necessary license to collect the debt, required in places like Buffalo and New York City.
  • The debt was discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding and therefore, cannot be collected.

Disputes Related to Service or Technical Requirements

You can use procedural mishaps as a defense if the plaintiff has not adhered to the rules correctly. For example:

  • You never received a copy of the summons from the plaintiff.
  • The plaintiff didn't properly serve you with the complaint or summons.
  • The complaint lacks a debt collection license number, which is mandatory in NYC.

Other Defenses, Like Having Only Social Security Benefits

There are less common defenses that might be relevant to your case, such as having protected income like Social Security benefits.

If your defense isn't listed, that doesn't mean you can't argue it. If you believe you don't owe the plaintiff any money for any reason, include it in your response before filing. Also, you may have a counterclaim against the plaintiff, which is when you believe the plaintiff owes you money.

How Late Answers Can Waive Dismissal Rights for Creditors’ One-Year Deadline to Seek a Default Judgment

In New York, under the Civil Practice Law and Rules, if a plaintiff does not “proceed with the entry of judgment” within a year following a defendant's default, the defendant can seek to dismiss the complaint. However, certain actions by the defendant may waive this right.

Purpose of the Rule:

This rule ensures that plaintiffs act diligently in seeking judgments after a defendant's default. It provides a safeguard for defendants, ensuring cases don't remain unresolved indefinitely. However, if a defendant takes certain actions, they may inadvertently give up their right to this safeguard.

3 Key Clarifications:

  • Late service of an answer and discovery demands by a defendant might result in waiving the dismissal right, especially if the plaintiff treated the late answer as a notice of appearance.
  • If a court denies a defendant's motion for a default judgment and the defendant then serves an answer, the right to dismissal is not waived.
  • A motion to serve a late answer neither constitutes a formal nor informal appearance, preserving the right to seek dismissal.

What Happens When the Case Is Presented to the Judge?

After your response is filed, the court clerk will set a date for you and the plaintiff to present your cases to a judge. The date might be given to you right after you file your response, or it might be sent to you later via mail. The court will pick a date that is at least five days post your response filing, but you can typically expect it to be quite soon after you file.

Why it's Smart to Hire a Lawyer to Defend a Collection Lawsuit

Hiring a lawyer to defend a collection lawsuit is often a wise choice due to several reasons:

  1. Legal Knowledge and Experience: Lawsuits can be complex and navigating the legal system can be challenging for someone without legal training. Lawyers have studied the law and understand the procedures, deadlines, and rules that must be followed. They know how to review a case for potential defenses and counterclaims, and can guide you through the legal process.

  2. Negotiating Settlements: An experienced lawyer can negotiate with the creditor or collection agency on your behalf. They can often negotiate a settlement where you end up paying less than the full amount owed, set up a payment plan that fits your financial situation, or potentially get the lawsuit dismissed if the creditor has not followed the law in their collection efforts.

  3. Reviewing and Responding to Legal Documents: Legal paperwork can be confusing and intimidating for people without a legal background. A lawyer can help review these documents, make sure they're filled out correctly, and ensure they're filed on time.

  4. Court Representation: If your case goes to court, having a lawyer represent you can make a significant difference. They know how to present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and make legal arguments to the judge or jury.

  5. Protection of Rights: An attorney can ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. For example, some creditors or collection agencies might engage in practices that violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). A lawyer can recognize these violations and take appropriate action.

  6. Peace of Mind: Dealing with a collection lawsuit can be stressful. Having a lawyer can provide peace of mind that your case is being handled professionally, freeing you to focus on other aspects of your life.

While hiring a lawyer can be an additional expense, in many cases, the benefits outweigh the costs. Legal aid or pro bono services might be available for those who cannot afford a lawyer. It's always advisable to consult with a lawyer to understand your options and the potential consequences of a lawsuit.

Intake Form for New Clients. Share Case Details. The Langel Firm, NYC Debt Defense Law

Contact a New York credit collection abuse lawyer from our firm for a free review of your case. You may have the right to recover damages.

If you need help, call us at (888) 271-7109, or complete this form.