Can I stop this action?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can I stop this action?

I was served with a judgment for a debt I know nothing about. My wages are being garnished and I’m absolutely sure that I was never served notice of any actions against me taken place. The only thing I can think it might be medical bills from 9 years ago and the amount I’m told I owe 3k and the judgment is for over $7,000.

Asked on July 7, 2019 under Bankruptcy Law, Montana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

First, find out more about the action underlying the judgment: you can use the judgment number to look up the case with the court, either online (depending on how good or comprehensive your state court's website and online records are) or in person at the court clerk's office. (You need to look up with or at the court that issued this judgment, so if it is a judgment from another state, you'd need to try to look up with that state's courts.) 
Once you know what the case was (e.g. have the case's docket number, which is generally distinct from the judgment number), then you can look up how the judgement was issued against you--e.g. by default, if you have never responded to or appeared in the case. Then you want to look up the underlying court filings and get a copy of them, particularly the complaint (which is what they sued you for and why) and the proofs or affidavits of service (which is where they attested to when and where and how you supposedly received the court papers). 
Once you have all the above, you can see if you have grounds to make a motion to vacate or set aside the judgment, such as on grounds that they have the wrong information and sued the wrong person, or sued over a bill you had paid, or tried to serve you at the wrong address so you never got the complaint (not being properly served can be grounds to open up a judgment). 
If you don't have some viable defense to the charge or procedural ground (like improper or lack of service) to set aside the judgment, your best option may be to try to negotiate some settlement you can pay and live with. That could even be your best option anyway, since all vacating the judgment means typically is that now they have to sue you again (i.e. you don't win the case; you get a "do over"), and if it's valid debt, they will likely win.

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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