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Hello everyone, First off, I'd like to say thank you to the magic of the internet, but also this site in particular. I'm a long-time lurker, and this is my first post. I was brought to court by Velocity Investments, LLC for old, junk, credit card debt. I believe I made some good decisions as well as some bad decisions along the way, and I'd like to share my story here. I found a lot of other people's stories helpful to me in my case, so I feel I should return the favor and write a very detailed account of my case. If I feel I have helped even one person, I'd have done my job here. I appreciated all of the help these forums gave me in preparation to my case. So, In February of 2014 I was mailed a summons to appear in court in June. The Plaintiff was Velocity Investments, LLC, being represented by a somewhat local law firm who is located closer to Boston than central Massachusetts (where I live). I had never heard of Velocity Investments, LLC. If they had tried to contact me, they had failed. I also am in the habit of never picking up my phone if I am unfamiliar with the phone number. If they had spoken to me on the phone though, I would have never admitted that I owed them anything. The one regret I have pre-summons is that I never sent them a debt validation letter. If I had been contacted by them via mail, or through a voicemail, before the summons was delivered to me, perhaps this would never had to have gone to court. A couple of wonky things I noticed about Massachusetts Small Claims courts...The summons does not have to be delivered by Certified Mail. If you've moved around and the debt in question is old, they are probably sending you a summons to your old address. Thankfully I still reside at the same place and I did receive the summons. In Massachusetts, I also noticed that the instructions for filing an answer might as well be hidden in one of those Magic Eye hologram books. The front of the summons simply stated who was suing me, and when my court date was. It did NOT allude to anything about sending in an answer on the front of the document. There were no attached files from the Plaintiff. the only thing in the Claims section was a small typed paragraph showing the last 4 digits of an account number, an amount of $6,621 being owed, and a date sometime in 2010 as being the date of last payment received. Immediately I took to the internet for advice. This is how I learned that I had to submit an answer. On the back of the summons, a few paragraphs down, in tiny type, were the instructions on how to submit an answer to both the court and the Plaintiff's attorney. I did type up an answer to the summons as follows: "I, the Defendant in the above referred-to Small Claims Action, understand that in this answer, I must state fully and specifically what facts set out in the Plaintiff's Statement of Claim I deny, and what facts I admit, and I do so as follows: I deny each of the Plaintiff's allegations int he claim. Affirmative Defenses: I do not owe this debt, I dispute the amount claimed to be owed, I have not entered into a contract with the Plaintiff, I have not received adequate documentation to show that the Plaintiff has standing." I sent one to the court and one to the lawfirm of the Plaintiff via Certified Mail. Shortly thereafter, I received a letter from the law firm offering to settle for a lesser amount. I laughed and ripped it into pieces and threw it away. So, here comes the hearing, which was exceptionally unconventional. It's a small, rinky-dink court house in my home town, but I saw about 20 other people who I assumed were here for the same thing. The odd part, I thought, was that I only picked out 3 or 4 people who looked like lawyers. I thought, "Good! Maybe they didn't bother to show!" The small claims defendants and plaintiffs were called into the courtroom together. The magistrate presiding over the hearings started calling out names on a list to account for attendance. It's true. A LOT of people didn't even show. Each time a name was called, and the defendant was not in court, you would hear the magistrate say "default judgment for the Plaintiff." as if he has said this same thing over and over again thousands of times. I was paying attention to everything and I was starting to get very confused and upset. Those 3-4 lawyers up front seemed to be representing ALL of the Plaintiffs from all of the cases. how could this small handful of lawyers be representing all of the different companies who were suing people today? It didn't make any sense and I was starting to get really angry, quite frankly. If I have to show up or else face a default judment against me, it doesn't seem fair that the Plaintiff and the specific team of lawyers they hired don't have to be there. Instead this handful of lawyers were just picking up the cases. How does that make sense? I was fuming! After attendance was recorded and default judgments were placed against all of the no-show defendants, the magistrate called into a recess, and said that we could "have our discussions outside" and then come back in. We left the courtroom and the lawyers scattered to talk to people about payment plans. I noticed one lawyer in particular who had a very large file binder. This poor dude was trying to settle and have talks with just about all of the defendants one by one. Yeah, I actually did feel bad for him. He was running around like a chicken, and with no real private place to talk a midst all of his paperwork, he was taking people over to a small hallway and using the top of a garbage can as a work desk. That stinks for him. (No pun intended) Eventually, 20 minutes later he called my name. I went over to his dumpster desk and introduced myself. I also asked him..."What's the deal with Kream and Kream? (the Plaintiff's lawyer team) Did they just up and decide to not show up today?" He gave a nervous laugh and just said "Well, I am the Plaintiff today." No further explanation. At this point, with my suspicions verified that neither the Plaintiff, nor the lawers representing them on my paperwork were present, I was very, very upset. The lawyer pulled out a file folder on my case that seemed quite large. He asked me questions concerning a Citibank Sears card and asked me if this was the debt I was being sued for. I said "Well, supposedly. That's what it says on my summons. But I don't owe this money, so, I'm sorry, but, I'm not going to pay a debt that is not mine." He recited a date of last payment with the amount paid, along with the remaining amount due. He told me I still owed the amount due to the new company who owns the debt. I told him that I had previously paid off this debt in full, and that, even though I am sorry to make his job a little harder today, that I will of course not pay a debt that has already been paid off in full. He then asked if I had any paperwork that showed that I paid the debt off, as he pulled out a copy of the last statement that was on file from 2010. I'll admit, at this point I started feeling a little scared. He had a file folder full of papers on this. My file folder only contained two things; a copy of my Small Claims answer, and my actual summons. I had nothing else with me and no proof at all that the original debt was actually paid. I told him that I do not have any proof on me, but that the debt had been paid through Sears' collections dept years ago and I had no record of it. He seemed frustrated for a second, but then polite and friendly and just said "Okay. We'll be taking this to the magistrate then. I do have a couple more people I need to speak with, but once that's over we'll go in for your hearing, okay?" Me and my boyfriend sat back down on a bench and waited for him to finish up with the rest of the defendants. I had a surge of thoughts and emotions running through me. Regret that all I had on me was court documents...but confusion on what else I could have brought with me. I had nothing to show for myself, and who knows what else was in that large stack of papers he had with him. Regret that i didn't ask for Discovery as the laws in my state had me confused about it so I just didn't bother. Anger at the fact that the Plaintiff and lawyer team representing them didn't even show. Mixed feelings about the lawyer who was going against me. He seemed friendly enough. He was polite and courteous as I had been with him. And I did feel bad that THIS was what he was doing today. I imagined that he hated his life. My thoughts towards him could be summed up by saying "You're a nice enough guy. Sorry this has been dumped on you. But I want to destroy you in the court room." I heard him talk to the magistrate in the hallway. He told him that everyone was being taken care of, and that he had one hearing he was going to be bringing in. WHAT?! All of those other defendants made arrangements to pay. I was the only one fighting today. At this point, I felt incredibly unprepared, but also READY. It's a strange feeling. In the court room I stood by the answer I had given to the court. I desperately wanted to bring up the fact that technically, the plaintiff nor the lawyer's representing them were not here, and question the practice of this one lawyer picking up all of the cases in court today, but I was honestly unsure on how to properly address this issue in court. I stood by my answer that the plaintiff had no standing to sue me for this debt, that I had not received any AUTHENTICATED (yes, I emphasized that word) documents to show that I owe this debt, and that I owe it to them, and that i had previously paid this debt off. The magistrate asked me for documentation for the payoff. I told him I do not have it. The magistrate seemed frustrated by my audacity to come in with my proof of payment. I explained to him that the payment was made years ago, when I had a different bank account at a different bank. the debt in question had gone to Sears card collections, and as a last-ditch effort, they offered me a settlement about of $3,000, about half of the amount of the original debt. I paid them the money, and then didn't concern myself with it. I also told him that I tried to contact Sears collections and that they would not speak to me about it at all, saying that they do not have record of anything and they cannot help me. The magistrate then tried to explain to me that if the debt was sold, they would no longer HAVE record of it. That the debt was sold to X-company, who then sold it to X-company, who then sold it to the Plaintiff, who is suing me today. I acknowledged that I understood how debt can be bought from companies, but that they may have sold a debt that was actually paid for, and now Sears won't talk to me about it because it was sold and they no longer have record of it. The magistrate again seemed....frustrated. defeated by how fragmented and uneasy this case was. He explained to me that the Plaintiff did have a bill of sale. I expressed that the bill of sale is not authenticated nor an original document. The magistrate seemed disinterested in what I had to say. The lawyer seemed upset and stressed. He scoffed and started hurriedly going through his papers. He seemed defensive. At this point I began to think that I was going to lose. Period. The magistrate then asked the plaintiff (if you can call him that) how much of the amount owed was interest. The lawyer was scrambling through his paperwork some more and finally said "$300." The magistrate looked at him like he was nuts and said "That can't be right. Not with $6,000 owed. At such a high interest rate. How can that be right?" the lawyer repeated that the interest included in the amount due was listed as $300. The magistrate had his head in his hands. He was officially not having a good day at this point. "You can't tell me that the amount of interest in that debt is only $300. It's simply not right. There's something really not right with this." There was an uneasy silence. The magistrate then said "It's not my job to do this, but it looks like I am going to have to. I'm going to need to take some time to go over these numbers and figure this out. Because the amount of that debt that is interest you're telling me is not right and it cannot be right. It just doesn't make sense. And now I have to be the one to make sense of it." He looked at me and told me that I would receive the judgment in the mail within 5 days. And then it was all over. I left the courthouse feeling very confused and definitely feeling like things did not go my way. I was expecting to see a judgment in the mail in a few days that told me I owed $x amount of money and I would have to appeal the decision. I left upset that I was unable to put this behind me. Who has a hearing and then leaves not knowing the outcome? It didn't take 5 days. It took about a week and a half. All the judgment said was that the judgment was found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff had no right to appeal the decision. I am SO happy! Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing what exact details led to this decision, as I wasn't expecting this outcome at all after appearing in court. If I had to guess, the numbers didn't sit right with the magistrate. If he didn't trust the numbers, how can he even trust the entire case? He certainly didn't seem to care (or show that he cared) about original documentation. He was very dismissive of the things I was questioning. I certainly didn't play all of my cards the way I probably should have. I did some things right, and I did some things wrong. But I wasn't afraid to fight anyway. The biggest piece of advice I can give to anyone, although it seems small, is to bring someone with you. If I had been waiting in that courthouse hallway all alone, I may have not had all of the confidence that I did that day. Just simply having my boyfriend with me for moral support gave me comic relief while we sat around doing nothing while waiting for everything. If I was alone I would have been stressed and more worried. Having that one person there who is 100% behind you puts a whole new spring in your step. I was amazed at how unafraid I felt while discussing things with the lawyer and then again while addressing the magistrate. Even if you have one person who is behind you, waving a flag in support of you, it can add a whole new level of self confidence you didn't know you had. Good luck fellow debt-fighters. I wish you all the best of luck in your fight!
So, my motion to compel documents was granted. Midland didn't even send a lawyer, they no showed. I wore a suit, everyone thought I was an attorney until I stated my name and in pro per. The judge even commented that my motion was very well prepared. Now comes the interesting part. I was granted the motion because midland was late responding to my request for production of documents, and hence waived all of their rights to objection. They have to give me everything with no right to object. Now we'll see what they really have. I used ASTmedic's motion to compel as a starting point and tweaked it from there. Things are going alright for me so far, thanks to lots of help from ca lawyer, astmedic's thread and lots of other stuff on here. Next step is to beat these JDBs. I'd be happy to share my motion and separate statement with anyone going through the same business.
I filed to have a motion to compel bop (or preclude as Calawyer explained I should do and I did) and it is SOON- I'm wondering what to expect during the hearing. A little background info: 1) I'm in CA 2) a tentative ruling will be posted the day prior to the date 3) I have rec'd the plaintiff's opposition to the motion 4)Im in the process of writing up my reply What happens if am granted my motion to compel? or the motion to preclude? What happens if it is denied? Do I go to court the next day regardless? I'm afraid not to go so I'm pretty sure I will go either way.....just looking for a little insight. Thanks in advance!!