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Stipulation for settlement agreements


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I was in a bad spot about 5 years ago (2007) and had just started a brand new job after having been unemployed for almost a year when I found myself in the situation of being sued on a credit card. It was a large amount (around $4700) I panicked and did not want this firm getting a garnishment against me. I'm not HoH, and am not otherwise in a protected status from garnishment in the state of FL. I went into a "Stipulation for settlement agreement" with the law firm suing me thinking (like a big dummy) that they really were trying to help. I made arrangements to pay what I could afford every month. For five years, I made my payments faithfully and on time. I made late car payments a couple of time to make sure I paid them on time. I got to know the people at the firm who took the payments. In January of this year (2011), I called to tell them January's payment would be late because of a financial difficulty. She said, "I'll let the attorney know." I thought it was taken care of. I made the January payment late, and boom... the same "friendly" law firm motioned the Court for "FOR FINAL ENTRY OF FINAL JUDGMENT" because I missed one payment. Yes, one payment. In the copy of the motion I received from the Court was an accounting of all of my payments, made faithfully on or before the due date of the 17th of every month. I missed one payment and am now back at square one without protections of SOL or DV or anything. Oh, and that friendly law firm? I called them when I received a copy of the motion and was like, "What's the deal? I called and said it would be late." All they would say is I needed to follow the instructions in the paperwork I received from the court. That's all they would tell me, I asked to speak to the lawyer directly and they told me a court date would be set for that. I asked to speak to a supervisor and the supervisor told me the same thing. "It's all in the court now, you are bound by the stipulation agreement."

I had to end up hiring an attorney to keep this firm from getting that final judgment and am in an "uphill battle" according to my attorney. Realistically, he said he hopes he can keep them from getting a garnishment order but because of this stipulation I signed, I basically signed all of my rights to fight this debt away.

Be very careful with these stipulation agreements. Be very wary of friendly and nice personnel at the law firm suing you. They very well be nice people but they do not work for you. They will nail you at the first opportunity they have. I should have fought this in 2007 because now I really don't even have much of a defense. So far, the only technicality is they didn't include a copy of the stipulation I signed and the court has already destroyed the case records. My docket online shows all of the documents for my case were destroyed in November of 2009. (The docket entry reads, "CASE ELIGIBLE FOR DESTRUCTION : 11/02/2009") I honestly don't have a copy anymore, and my attorney filed, "REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION" but they answered with an objection "TO THE DEF REQ FOR POST JUDGMENT DISCOVERY."

It's just a warning to everyone. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, I've been lurking these boards for a couple of weeks to see if anyone in my situation has had a good outcome and not many have. I'm hoping to settle my case but the other side is under no obligation whatsoever to settle. I signed all of that stuff away in 2007. :cry:

The original debt was for approx. $2500. I was sued for approx. $4700 (interest, penalties blah blah blah). I made 63 payments of $75 per month. $27 of that went to interest, the rest to principal so I have paid right around approx. $3000 of this debt in the 5 years I've been paying it (not counting the interest I've been paying). The final judgment is asking for approx $3700 plus attorney fees. :shock: Plus, I've now had to hire an attorney. I'm worse off than I was in 2007.

Be careful with what you sign gang. I wish I would have done my homework and not allowed them to bully me. I wish I had researched more back then. I'm just telling you all to be very very very very careful of these stipulation agreements. Know what you are signing. Read it for phrases like "waiving rights to trial," "admits debt of $XXXX.XX," and "waives protections from garnishment." If the firm suing you says they want to "help you" don't believe it.

I could kick my younger self right square in the bum! :cry:

Edited by ShaynaPonem
corrected dollar amounts
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It is very admirable of you to account your story as it might help other avoid the same fate. Just imagine how many people do what you did and then apply and add that to all the defaults they get on people who didn't get contacted or suckered by them on the phone or by mail and who also didn't show up in court, I mean the only way an industry like this runs roughshot is because their tenticles stretch real far, this abuse has to touch way too many people for it not to be known by this country's godforsaken "leaders", can't tell me they are not on the take and let this go on unabated.

They took payments from you for 5 years, wow I read alot of them will just take them for 6 months to a year and then sell the debt off again.

I have already worked it out in my head, the only way i will even consider a settlement (assuming the idiots suing me ever produce anything substantial to prove their claim) is if it is on my terms. If it is not something they agree to so be it. I would want to insist of the settlement not being an admission of the debt being mine. I would want it written clearly that they cannot sell the alleged debt and that is it completly satisfied and if they do the settlement is to be refunded.....lol.....I think there were a couple things I had thought of and/or researched that I would want in there too, just can't think of them right now.

Based on my research you should never deal with these people by phone. Never give them bank account info, if you do settle do it with a money order. And I wouldn't trust them as far as I could throw them, I wouldn't agree to a settlement unless it was signed off by a court, they are less likely to try tricky stuff when the court could possibly sanction them if they try to get more than was agreed to or otherwise violate the agreement.

And above all one thing to ask yourself before you consider a settlement, if they had the proof to prove their claim, why would they cut themselves short of what they could get if they were able to prove it. Never be pressured into making an agreement if they use the old trusty "this settlement offer won't be available later" either.

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Guest usctrojanalum

That is crappy of them to get a judgment against you after only missing 1 payment when you have been paying as agreed for all that time.

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I hope someone else who is considering a stipulation agreement will read my story and know what to expect and to look for.

My attorney told me that these stipulations are designed to fail. He said most people come to him after only a few months of having signed one wanting to change it, reduce it or whatever but it's too late. Stipulation agreements are just another debtor trap and I walked right into it. But stipulation agreements are very powerful for the collector. By signing it, I admitted to the debt, waived my rights to future litigation, waived any garnishment rights I might have had (except those provided for by statute), waived arbitration, all of it. It doesn't matter how old the debt is at this point, it all reset when I missed that one payment. My attorney (who is a consumer attorney) told me stipulation agreements rarely end well and often times prove to be an easier road to garnishment. They lay in wait for you to miss one payment and then something like this happens. And all it takes is missing one payment.

Please note, I'm not blaming anyone but myself. I didn't do my homework. I allowed myself to be intimidated. I believed the other side was being nice to me and trying to help me out. My naivete has cost me big time. I hope someone else can learn from me what NOT to do.

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That is crappy of them to get a judgment against you after only missing 1 payment when you have been paying as agreed for all that time.

USCtrojanalum, that is what I have been telling you all along (every time we have one of these stipulation discussions). Her attorney is right: those stipulations are designed to fail. They go to automatic judgment immediately once a payment is late and the default period is usually very, very short: like 10 days..

I am truly sorry that the OP had to learn this the hard way. Hopefully to everyone else out there that is in the OP's situation, don't sign what the creditors attorney has prepared. Their client is the creditor, they have a fiduciary duty to their client - NOT YOU. In order to have an agreement that is more "fair" to you, you need a debtors attorney or a consumer attorney. Not all attorney's are good either. You will need to search for one that has the ability to represent you well.

If you feel comfortable enough representing yourself, then great. But be aware that it is the creditors attorney's job to do what he can to get the most $$ for his client and for himself (in the form of fees) from you. Each one of these settlements represent an income stream to both the creditor and the creditors' attorney. As long as you are aware of the impact of what you are signing, then you are ok. If you don't understand it, take it to an attorney in your area (or at least post it here so we can put in our opinions as to the meaning of the terms!).

Edited by Denita
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And it wasn't even really for a missed payment, just late. They are just as bad as the JDB's IMHO. I hope all turns out well. What is your balance now after paying for five years?

The final judgement amount they are requesting is $3700 (give or take) plus attorney fees. My attorney has made an offer of settlement, but the other side doesn't have to accept it, they have all of the power because of that stipulation agreement. I'm just hoping, that's all I really can do is hope they accept it and choose not to enforce the stipulation agreement.

They go to automatic judgment immediately once a payment is late and the default period is usually very, very short: like 10 days..

I am truly sorry that the OP had to learn this the hard way. Hopefully to everyone else out there that is in the OP's situation, don't sign what the creditors attorney has prepared. Their client is the creditor, they have a fiduciary duty to their client - NOT YOU. In order to have an agreement that is more "fair" to you, you need a debtors attorney or a consumer attorney.

Automatic judgement is exactly what happened to me, and I wasn't notified. Even though I don't have a copy of the stipulation agreement anymore, the attorney I hired is very familiar with the other side attorney and is pretty sure what all of my agreement included as the suing attorney uses a fairly standard stipulation agreement and he's seen them before. They usually include a clause that the debtor will not be notified if they miss a payment, my attorney said it's very standard language for these types of agreements.

When you look at their accounting of my payment history, it appears as though I didn't make a payment at all in January and then made a double payment in February. I specifically asked if the judge would take into account my past payment history and my attorney told me he honestly didn't think so because in the stipulation agreement I agreed to make the payments on time, not late. He said even if the judge is sympathetic, the judge has to rule on the terms of the stipulation agreement, even if he thinks the agreement is unfair or whatever. As long as it is a legal document, he has to rule on the agreement. The final judgement was filed with the court on Feb. 14 (or at least that's when all of it is dated), it hit the docket on March 4, and I received the paperwork in the mail March 8, and it included the forms that asked about my assets, bank accounts, bank statements for the last 3 years, my most recent tax return, my car lien information (including the application for credit to buy the car if it was bought within the last 3 years) and employment information that I'm supposed to fill out and have notarized. The original case was filed with court in January of 2006.

I'll come back and post when the dust has all settled and I know for sure what's going to happen. I call my attorney weekly and check the docket daily for any updates. I'm hoping to have some resolution soon.

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  • 3 weeks later...

:)++ Just an update... My attorney advised that the only way the plaintiff would agree to not go after judgment and garnishment proceedings from me was if I agreed to a new stipulation agreement that would allow me to pay off the debt at a negotiated rate but still have the same strict terms as the first agreement. I also learned I was not HoH protected (Florida has Head of Household laws to protect from garnishment) even though I have a son who is 21.

My attorney advised that the other side would accept $1350 and the whole thing would be over, I wouldn't have a judgment and I would have 15 days from the date the agreement was signed to pay the money. The debt would be considered paid in full and all would be well. I had the money ready to go and sent it to the plaintiff, per my attorney's instructions, along with the new stipulation agreement and waited. After about 5 days, I didn't hear anything, I decided on my own to check my Court's website. Lo and behold those scoundrels had gotten Final Judgment anyway and that afternoon I got home and the paperwork was waiting for me. I was so angry. :evil: I called my attorney who called the plaintiff and was advised it was a "clerical error" on plaintiff's part! I could not believe it! My attorney advised me to calm down and it would get cleared up. The plaintiff had requested "automatic judgment" but had a period of time to withdraw or vacate that request and although they agreed to, they never did due to this clerical error. I asked them if the plaintiff's could get into trouble and he said probably not, because even the courts make clerical errors and at most they would get a lecture from the judge to be careful because it wasn't an egregious error that caused me harm, because he said no one is attempting to enforce the judgment, it will be vacated and that will take care of it. So, now I'm waiting for the Court website to catch up to the filings I have received from my attorney before I consider this matter closed. I want to see on the Court's website that the paperwork I have is legit... LOL I'm so burned out by all of this. The $1350 check to the plaintiff has cleared, and I've got copies as proof of payment, I have the paperwork signed by the plaintiff entitled, "Ex-Parte Motion to Set Aside Judgment" and am now waiting on a second document from my attorney that the debt is paid in full, and barring any future collections on this particular debt. Then it will be over. So I've spent $1350 on settlement, and $750 for my attorney fee (included in his fees are court filing fees).

Be careful everyone, and be your own advocate. No matter how nice and sweet the plaintiff or their employees may be they are not on your side and they are not looking out for your interests. And be sure, absolute 100% sure of what you are signing if you hear the words, "stipulation agreement." I'll update again once my case is finally and truly over and I have all of the legal documents indicating it's over.

Best wishes to everyone fighting the good fight!

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Thanks for the follow up. Glad you were able to get a reasonable resolution.

To all others:

Be careful of the stipulated settlements. They are time bombs if they extend more than a couple of months. It is not possible to know what your situation will be 1 to 2 years from now and as the OP has shown, the collectors (OC, lawyers, JDB) are not your friends trying to help you out. Not only will they reduce to judgement, but they will add other fees if allowed by law.

If you settle, make the settlement for dismissal for a one time lump payment or at most payments over 3 months. You can sometimes negotiate a continuance of any court dates if you are attempting to settle in that amount of time. Just ask for a continuance as part of the negotiation with the idea that you will pay the amount agreed by that time for a dismissal.

Because it is a negotiation there are no hard set rules, and sometimes they may not want to negotiate or accept less than the full amount so that is where you have to be willing to fight to push for a better deal.

End of rant. :oops:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Finally, it's over. As of May 11, 2011 the Judgment against me has been vacated! It was costly, time consuming and unnecessary for me to go through this. It was totally my being too trusting of the JDB and thinking they were trying to help me out.

This has cost me thousands of dollars and I know if I sat down and figured out how much I've spent on court costs, payments over all of these years and interest on top of that (not to mention time off work for attorney appointments and phone conferences) I will have paid at least twice (probably more) of the original debt.

I hope someone can learn from me what NOT to do. I breath a sigh of relief that it's over, but it should have never gotten this far.

Continued good luck and best wishes to everyone out there still fighting. Hang in there.

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