There are a few debt buyers in California who are responsible for thousands of suits each month. With this volume of cases, the “life cycle” of a typical collection lawsuit can be predicted to some extent. Here is what you should expect.
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- You will be served personally with some documents called a summons and complaint.
- Some counties require you to also be served with information about Alternative Dispute Resolution programs.
- If you are not served in person, investigate whether the process server properly served you.
II. DEBT BUYER’S CLAIMS
- It is likely the debt buyer will sue you for something called “common counts.”
- If you have reason to believe your debt was purchased by the debt buyer after January 1, 2014, investigate whether Plaintiff’s complaint complies with Cal. Civ. Code section 1788.58.
- Sometimes a debt buyer will sue for breach of contract. If you have been sued for breach of contract, has the debt buyer properly pleaded the terms of the alleged contract?
III. YOUR RESPONSE TO THE COMPLAINT
- Within 30 days of service: you will need to file a response to the complaint.
- This response might be an a demurrer, an answer, or a general denial.
- The best response will vary depending on the contents of Plaintiff’s complaint.
- Send discovery, and respond to Plaintiff’s discovery.
- You generally have 30 days to respond to Plaintiff’s discovery requests.
V. CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCES
- You should expect 1-3 “Case Management Conferences.”
- During these conferences, you usually set a trial date and discuss any discovery issues.
VI. CCP §98 DECLARATION IN LIEU OF TESTIMONY
- At least 30 days prior to trial, Plaintiff will probably send you something called a “CCP §98 Declaration in Lieu of Testimony.”
- “CCP §98” merely refers to the section of the California Code of Civil Procedure that deals with Declarations in Lieu of Testimony.
- With this document, Plaintiff is trying to introduce testimony via written declaration so it doesn’t have to produce a live witness.
- Consider whether you have grounds to object to the Declaration coming into evidence.
VII. CCP §96 DEMAND FOR STATEMENT OF WITNESSES AND EVIDENCE
- 30-45 Days prior to Trial: You will probably receive a “CCP §96 Demand for Statement of Witnesses and Evidence.”
- Respond to it within 20 days of receipt.
- You should send one to Plaintiff as well.
VIII. MOTIONS IN LIMINE; TRIAL BRIEF
- 2-3 weeks before trial date: If you have grounds to object to any of Plaintiff’s proposed witnesses and evidence, consider filing a motion in limine.
- The rules for these motions vary widely from county to county.
- Be sure to check the local court rules for your county.
- You might also be required to file (with the court) a trial brief and / or a list of witnesses and evidence.
- Again, check your local rules.
VIV. YOUR TRIAL DATE
- Your trial date will vary greatly depending on what county you are in.
- In Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, expect a trial date within a year of the filing date of the suit.
***NOTE*** If you are serving Plaintiff by mail, you will need to add five days to some of the deadlines above.