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Being sued in Washington State


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I see a lot of confusion regarding Washington State. I am not a lawyer, if you need legal advice, find an attorney. Based on my experience and understanding, however, I wanted to explain some key differences between WA state and other states:

A lawsuit can be, and usually is, commenced prior to filing the case. WA has pocket service--the summons and complaint will usually not have a case number assigned. This is not some collector trick; assume it's a valid suit and conduct yourself accordingly.

Service is in person, or by publication.

WAlawhelp has a great resource showing how to answer a debt lawsuit.

If you do nothing, the plaintiff will file the suit with the court and get a default. If you show up at the court house to "answer" without a proper, legal answer on paper, they will get a default.

A legal answer does not include: I lost my job, I'm getting divorced, the dog ate my money.

If you file a Notice of Appearance, they cannot get a default--even if you don't answer. They would have to file an MSJ and notify you when the hearing is set. In theory, you would still have time to answer. (My understanding--again, I'm not a lawyer). I certainly wouldn't think filing just a Notice of Appearance is a good idea, but I would include one with my answer.

When you file your answer, be aware: It is my understanding that you need to plead standing, or rather, lack of standing and validity of assignment affirmatively--they have a presumption of validity. Again, I'm not a lawyer, but that is my understanding. Since standing and chain of custody are at the heart of JDB cases, don't give it away from the get go.

BTW, it is always a good idea to go check the WA Secretary of States website to make sure they're registered in Washington. Check for business licenses and collection agency licenses.

When you file your answer, do not necessarily expect any timely action in court. If it's a good answer and a JDB, they will probably now start looking for evidence before they file with the court and it may be months before they do anything. They may never do anything, but its always kind of hoverng in the background. Usually they will eventually file to avoid FDCPA violations.

Alternatively, you can demand they file. If they don't file on demand, within a certain period I can't recall off the top of my head, the summons and case die.

You may want to mark your calender if you're thinking you have FDCPA or WA violations outside any counterclaims. Because the tolling is short, they can easily go out of statute waiting for the court case.

Depending on where you are, getting an answer in and waiting for the filing can take months. Once its filed, it can take months in court. Any good, legally sufficient answer in my county can easily buy one to two years of time even if I were to lose...a lot can happen in that amount of time.

Even if they file, they may never prosecute the case and eventually the clerk of court will move dismissal for lack of prosecution.

In my experience, which may be atypical, they take a run at MSJ after they file and if they fail, it may just kind of fade away...

Again, if you need legal help, get a lawyer--I am not providing legal advice. This is my understanding and experiences in Washington state, and I thought I'd share since I see so much confusion when compared to other states...

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