In the case of a disputed tuition debt, who ends up with the burden of proof?

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In the case of a disputed tuition debt, who ends up with the burden of proof?

A local community college alleges I owe for the fall semester of lst year. I never signed up for it and haven’t attended the school in 6 years. I only received a bill last month and have talked to them to try to straighten it out since but it’s already been turned over to collections. I was finally told by the school registrar that I could appeal if I could prove I was working or out of state at the time. Shouldn’t they have to prove it since they’re alleging the debt?

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

"Collections" is not a judicial determination that you owe the money--it is either their internal collections department or third party debt collector. Even if it has been turned over to collections, you do not have to pay unless and until they sue you and obtain a  judgment against you in court. If they sue you, the burden of proof will be on them, since the burden of proof is essentially always on the person or entity bringing the lawsuit (the plaintiff).

That said, to avoid later litigation and other difficulties (as well as possibly having a bad debt reported to credit rating agencies), if you have evidence that you were working, were out of state, etc. you may as well provide it and try to head this off before it escalates.


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