Can a creditor still sue you even after an arrangement to pay back the debt has been made?

UPDATED: Jan 6, 2011

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Can a creditor still sue you even after an arrangement to pay back the debt has been made?

Upon leasing, I agreed to do projects and jobs for my landlord. After moving out I still owed for rent but he verbally agreed to let me paint his house for what was owed. Every time I showed up to start painting, he had something else he wanted me to work on. Near winter he said that it looked as if I would not be able to paint and asked if I could pay him monthly. I asked if $100 a month for 12months would work and he made up a promissory note. Since that time I got a different job and could not afford that and asked if we could go to the prior agreement. He then sued me for $2250.

Asked on January 6, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Alaska


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Here is the problem: you have two contacts one verbal and one that was memorialized in writing.  The verbal contract could be said to have been re-negotiated in to the promissory note to pay the $100 a month.  But he can not sue you for more than the note indicated that you were obligated to pay.  $100 a month for 12 months is $1200 not $2250.  Where is he getting the other $1050 from?  Generally speaking you can not bring orl testimony in to discuss the terms of a contract during a lawsuit but sometimes the court can allow it when the terms do not add up.  Here you may be able to explain the agreement to the court since he obviously created confusion in the amount he sued for versus the promissory note.  Here is what you need to do: you need to answer the complaint with  "general denial" meaning that you deny each and every paragraph except that you had an agreement of some sort.  Then counterclaim (counter sue him) for the money he did not pay you for the other jobs that you did instead of the painting, which was the original agreement.  Decide if it is worth it to charge per job or by the hour for your time.  Also raise affirmative defenses such as "accord and satisfaction" of the debt, breach of contract and undue influence.  File the answer and serve him with it (have a friend hand it to him personally and have the friend sign an affidavit stating that he did so, where and when and have it notarized; bring the friend with you to court).  Then the judge may be willing to let you tell your side of the story in court.  Good luck. 

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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