What to do if a collection agency is suing me for my ex-girlfriend’s unpaid legal bill and it admits that there is no signed agreement?

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What to do if a collection agency is suing me for my ex-girlfriend’s unpaid legal bill and it admits that there is no signed agreement?

The collection agency admits that there is no signed agreement, just a note that after my girlfriend made a few payments. The account was signed over to me based on an oral agreement. The original creditor has been unable to provide a signed fee agreement. I never made any agreement, written or oral, to pay her bill. Furthermore, I never made any payment toward this bill. The collection agency won’t back down. They say I need to pay it or I’ll see them in court. Do they have a case?

Asked on June 4, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You cannot be held liable for another's debt unless you specifically agreed to assume or take it over, or to personally guaranty or cosign for, the debt. That's the law. Practically, if they can show that you did agree to this debt, they can enforce it against you, but an oral agreement  is almost always insufficient for this purpose (even assuming the existence and terms of the agreement can be proven, such as through credible testimony of people with personal knowledge)--typically, you need a written agreement to be charged with or held liable for another's debt. From what you write, you should have a good defense if sued, but should still retain an attorney if you are sued to make sure you present your defense correctly.


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