Category Archives: CIVIL LAW

Should I settle my credit card debt?

Q: If a law firm sues me for a credit card debt, should I try to settle it with a phone call to them or hire an attorney? I was making payments to a law firm that collects debt. I missed 1 payment and they called me I told them that I lost my job and it was hard for me to make the payments. I agreed to make a fraction of a payment and they took it. They called me two days later and requested another payment. I told them I could not make another payment for at least 2 weeks. Then I received a letter from a local magistrate that I am being sued.

A: I would consult with an attorney before settling with this company. Many of these claims by debt buyers and not the original creditor. Claims by the debt buyers many times can be defended by being dismissed with preliminary objections or being knocked out at the trial. Often these debt buyers cannot prove the initial contract or any assignment to them from the original creditor.

My dog got loose and killed the neighbor’s dog on their property?

Q: I am being sued what do I need to do? (Kennedy Township, PA)

A: There is a possibility you may be charged with a misdemeanor, summary offenses and local ordinance violations. A “dangerous” dog is one that has attacked, severely injured, or killed a human being or domestic animal, without provocation, and while it was away from its owner’s property. In Pennsylvania, an owner whose “dangerous dog” attacks a person may be guilty of a misdemeanor. You can also be sued in civil court. The measure of damages in a civil case would be limited to the value of the deceased dog and out of pocket medical expenses incurred by owner. These are very unfortunate situations, people simply love their pets. You should consult with an attorney to limit your potential damages. You might also want to consult with your veterinarian and line up an aggression evaluation and perhaps some behavior modification training for the dog to ensure this dog stays on your property.

What is the per diem charge on a civil judgement? I need to calculate my payoff!

Q: I have a judgement against someone and a lien on their house from 10/30/2014. The title company just called me for a payoff. I need to know the per diem increase for the amount to complete it. (Pittsburgh, PA)

A: Judgments in PA bear interest at a rate of 6% per year. You might also want to check if your judgment included costs and/or attorney fees.

Procedure in Allegheny County arbitration

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

I got a notice of deposition in aid of execution and I’m scared they will take my property

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.

Do I have to turn over evidence with no discovery requests made?

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.

In PA if you owe money on payday loans can they arrest you?

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.

Can I co-sign for daughter’s car loan if I live in Vegas?

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.

I bought a 2015 Chevy Cruz. Can I take it back?

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.