Is it legal fora debt collectorto threaten to haveyou held in contempt of court for non-production of voluminous documents?

I was served papers by a debt collector for a hospital debt. They want car titles, property titles, W2 info, 3 years of tax returns, and 3 months of paystubs. They have threatened in their little law suit packet to have me held in contempt of court if I don’t show or don’t have all this info (which I don’t because Ican’t find it all. I didn’t think they could threaten me like that. Bring this or else…. Do this or else. How can a private company use the courts as a puppet to punish you for being broke? Can i retaliate in some way?

Asked on September 13, 2010 under Bankruptcy Law, Wyoming


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with an attorney; the short answer is that it seems that they may be making threats they cannot. Contempt of court is, as the term implies, when you ignore the court's orders deliberately; for example, if you are ordered to appear as a witness and do not. Therefore, if there is a subpoena, which is a legal order, to show up for testimony, you have to. However, you would not be penalized if you simply don't have the answers or information they want. (Deliberately withholding information, that could get get you penalized; but simply not being able to find it would not). So while you need to do  your best to honor instructions from the legal system, as long as you do, you won't be punished for simply not being perfect.

However, if the debt collector is playing hardball like this, you want an attorney on your side. A lawyere could object to bullying tactics or to overly broad requests for information, and if the other side is abusing the legal process or violating some rules (like the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act) on what debt collectors can do, the attorney may in turn be able to sue them.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.