Q: My husband and I are PRO SE on a case going to compulsory arbitration in Allegheny County. Will they (the arbitrators) just let us talk about what happened, or will we have to question each other? Also, how do we address the arbitrators? (Swissvale, PA)
A: Arbitration panels in Allegheny County are composed of three attorneys from the legal community who are bound to follow state law and procedure. Most panels allow pro se litigants a little slack regarding conformity with the rules of civil procedure. However, I have seen panels apply the rules rigidly and cut people off for not complying with Rule 1305, attempting to admit documents that are not authenticated, or attempting to introduce hearsay statements. If this happens, a pro se litigant can find their case going south before they even know what hit them. Will you do better with an attorney? Most likely. Can you get by without one? Possibly.
CIVIL LAW, ARBITRATION, RULES OF PROCEDURE, PRO SE
Q: Five years ago, I had to abandon my home to Bank of America and moved in with friends in another state because of impending foreclosure. Since we had no money we stopped paying credit cards. Most of the debts have since been forgiven but one. Discover was large, about 12K. About two years ago they sent a subpoena and I was scared and dealing with panic attacks. I gave in and signed forms and agreed to the law firm to pay 100$ a month. They set up a payment plan with automatic withdrawal for I think 6 months. When I called to reset the payments, they badgered me for more. They told me the amount was going up from interest and my payments weren’t even covering it. They reluctantly agreed to set up further payments for only 3 months so they could harass me some more when I called back. I told them that my sole income now was about $1,500.00 per YEAR, after my husband of 17 years had left. It didn’t matter to them. They would only set for another 3 months. I couldn’t handle it, and stopped paying after. I own nothing of value but an 18-year-old Pontiac. I am married for a year and husband owns this house. The bank account is mine and his check goes in so I can pay house bills. (Jeanette, PA)
A: I would consult with a consumer rights attorney to deal with these vultures. My thought would be the old proverb, you cannot get blood from a stone. If all your husband’s assets are in his name, he should be protected. From what you describe it sounds like they already have obtained a judgment against you? Therefore, they can only execute on your property-property in your name only. This does not include your husband’s property. If you have no property to execute on, it is not worth their time. I am not telling you to commit fraud, but someone in your situation may not want to have a bank account. I would need to know more information but I would be inclined to not pay them if you do not have the money. They have only sent a Notice of Deposition. This is not a court order and it is not a subpoena. You could choose not to attend. If you receive any more paperwork from them, take it to an attorney.
Q: Opposing council has made no discovery requests. Do I have to turn over my evidence anyway? I am representing myself and headed for a jury trial in county court. (Tarentum, PA)
A: I am not sure if this is a civil or criminal matter but it sounds like you are in state court. The answer would be no in either court, criminal or civil. If no requests are made you have no duty to release information. If this was in Federal Court, you may need to.
Q: I have defaulted on 2 pay day loans a couple years ago and tried to work out a payment plan. I have been getting harassing calls and threats that there is a warrant for my arrest. (Butler, PA)
A: Arrest warrants come from criminal court and bench warrants from family court. There are no arrest warrants issued for not paying a civil debt. Secondly, this pay day loan company most likely did not successfully sue you and obtain a judgment. Pay day loan outfits are generally scam artists. They are just trying to scare you into paying them by threatening arrest. Either pay them back, or change your phone number.
Q: My daughter is 22 and just graduated college in Pittsburgh with honors. She has no student debt and a 6-figure per year job in the entertainment industry in Pittsburgh. She is a union member. Unfortunately, she has no credit history. This loan is from her own bank (PNC) where she has a good amount of savings (over $10,000). First, they told her she qualified, and told her the loan was denied. I offered to co-sign and spoke to the person. An hour later my daughter called and said they won’t allow an out of state co-signor, even though I said I would travel to Pittsburgh and offered whatever documentation they needed. My FICO score is excellent. It really pisses me off.
A: If I could speculate as to a reason, it would be that if there is a default on the loan, you will be hard to sue as an out of state resident with no real estate in PA that could be used as collateral. I would try another lender. Locally, try First Commonwealth Bank, or, more on the nationwide level, all the usual suspects as there are hundreds of them.
Q: I bought this 2015 Chevy Cruz and 5 days later came into financial trouble that I didn’t foresee happening. I called the dealership and they told me they had called the bank to unwind the loan for me. I called the bank to find out they never called them. The man at the dealership lied to me. Since this my blood pressure has gone so high I lost partial hearing in my right ear. Is there anything I can do. I have called the dealership 3 times and they won’t even speak to me. Is there anything I can do? I am in dire financial trouble with this car. All I wanted was the loan unwound. When I talked to the bank to see if the dealership called them they said they never got a call from them as they the bank would have rather undo the loan than repossess
A: Forget the car dealer. They could care less about anything once you are out the door. My suggestion is that you enter a voluntary repossession of the vehicle with the bank. From now on keep a record of your calls, conversations and contacts. Send the bank a certified, return receipt letter requesting the voluntary relinquishment of the car. Let the car sit, lock it up and keep it safe from damage. If that doesn’t work, just don’t make the loan payments, they will contact you and repossess. This is not something you go to jail for. It will hurt your credit a bit, but you can recover and somebody will loan you money again, believe me.
Q: It says you are going to be legally prosecuted within a couple of days in the Court House and Internal Revenue Service will put your social security number on hold causing severe damage to your credit history or credit report and your income paychecks will be put on hold any child support or disability or unemployment or retirement benefits will be either place on hold or will be stopped until you will pay the outstanding amount of 783.67 dollars to us
A: It is nothing but junk mail from a con artist hoping you will give them a credit card number.
Q: I thought I was one step from hiring an attorney. I simply asked how much he was charging so I could pay him up front and get things going. I haven’t heard back from him after I sent an email asking about meeting or faxing info to him. I wanted to pay him up front and deal with him on the 1st step as he had already put some time in talking to me and if things went further had already let me know I would be referred to someone else for further action, which I was fine with as I felt he deserved something for his time. After my email to confirm a payment amount I never heard back. Is it wrong to ask for pricing? I’m not someone who can just say bill whatever amount and be in debt to an attorney for $10,000 for a ten-minute conversation. Just want to know how to approach asking how to pay for their services please?
A: Of course, an agreement of potential fees should be discussed before any work commences. Likewise, any consultation fee should be communicated to you by the attorney before you start the consultation. Certain types of legal work require fees to be included in a written fee agreement signed by the attorney and the client. Ask the attorney and if you can’t reach an agreement, find another attorney. If you are sent a bill for a consultation and you never agreed to such billing, you may have a defense to not paying it.
Q: I have a car loan with a local bank and had to do a month’s deferral because I was out of work for a while. I called my local branch and spoke to their loan officer, who sent me the paperwork in the mail and told me everything would work out just fine. He said the month I couldn’t afford to pay would simply add on to the end of my loan and it wouldn’t be a missed payment. However, I’ve been getting nonstop collection phone calls from their collection department. I spoke with them and explained the situation to someone there and they told me “oh yes, now that you said you had a deferral I see that on our system”. They told me everything was fine. But today while I was at work they called again and a tow truck was seen on my street. If they tow my car wrongfully, can I hold the bank liable and sue?
A: You are likely in breach of your loan agreement if it is not paid and I am assuming under the same contract they are permitted to reclaim their vehicle. Now, the question is whether you can rely on their promise to extend or defer, or, is this just trickery being used to get their car back? Lenders are permitted to use some level of trickery in repossessing their collateral. It is not uncommon for the lender to invite you in to discuss your financial woes, while unbeknownst to you your car is being hooked and hoisted by a tow truck in the parking lot. What a lender cannot do is breach the public peace in the repossession process. For example, if your car is on a public street, it is fair game. However, they cannot go into your garage and take it. If you are serious about catching up with your payment, you might want to make the car unavailable until you are so caught up. If they do tow it, I don’t think you have a legitimate claim to sue them. If you cannot pay up, you may want to just turn the car in voluntarily to preserve your credit worthiness. Additionally, if they are calling you at work, they are in violation of the law.
Q: I was driving in the middle of the city before a concert and looking for a place to park, there was a woman flagging on the right side of the road, I went to pull into the lot behind her and she stepped out into the road pointing to a parking lot of the left side of the road, I in turned swerved back left to avoid hitting her and I hit another car. Both myself and the other car pulled into the lot, and exchanged info, she apologized and said she was sorry he even called her boss and said it was her fault and asked if we could park for free. He said no. My question is why was she flagging on the wrong side of the road and can I sue her or her company for causing this accident?
A: Yes, you can sue a pedestrian for causing a motor vehicle accident. Will it be worth it? A lot more facts would need to be known. First, there needs to be liability, fault on her part. Secondly, you need damages. I am hearing property damage here but not personal injury, lost work or other compensatory damages. If you suffered only property damage and you are insured, is your insurer not covering you? If your total damages are your deductible and say, rental car, while your car is being repaired, you may generate little interest in an attorney investing hundreds of dollars in costs and thousands of dollars of legal billable hours in this endeavor. You may want to file a civil action at the local District Justice. If you do sue, you may want to sue her employer as well. What is their liability? Would a judge find her to be exclusively liable for your property damage or would you be apportioned some fault (contributory or comparative negligence) for pulling into traffic without being clear to do so. I am just saying, I share your frustration but it may be a reach to hold her liable or not worth the investment. Why don’t you just submit the claim to your insurance company so they can assess potential liability.