Can a collection agency take you to small claims court without notification?

UPDATED: Feb 21, 2012

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Can a collection agency take you to small claims court without notification?

Today I was served with papers that I was taken to small claims court, however, I was never notified of this action. When I received a call about the debt in question I asked them if they now owned the debt and I was told no. On the papers I was served it says I now owe them and not the original creditor. Is this legal to do?

Asked on February 21, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Oregon


Trevor Clement / Law Office of Trevor A. Clement, LLC

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Odds are you were served but didn't realize it.  Despite what you see on TV, somebody isn't going to walk up to you, hand you a paper and say "You've been served."  For a small claims action, most likely all they had to do was mail you a form from the court telling you about the suit.  Also, odds are the attorney sent it registered mail, so they have a record of when it was delivered to you.

The attorney doesn't own the debt.  Some company owns the debt and they hired the attorney to collect it.  Most likely, you're misreading the document.

So, what do you do now?

1. You can pay the debt in full.

2. You can try to negotiate a settlement.  Keep in mind they DO NOT have to accept a settlement.  They can demand that you pay every cent.

3. You can file a motion with the court asking that the case be re-opened on the grounds that you did not receive notice.  (Check with your state's small claims rules to find out how, or you can go to the court and ask, but odds are they won't help you because they're not allowed to.)  You would need to argue that you didnt get the notice.  Even if you succeed, all this means is that they will now have a trial on whether you owe the debt or not.

4.  You can do nothing.  Don't do nothing.  This makes bad things happen.

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.

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