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I had some medical bills in 2018/2019. At the time, I was able to make monthly payments to the hospital, but the monthly amount was not enough for them so they sent the account to collections.

The debt collector called me and they were extremely rude to me. I asked for proof that I owed this money, and they said they had sent out information to me, but I really did not receive anything. They refused to send me anything else by mail because "they had already sent the information." I was angry at their response and attitude, so I agreed to pay them a smaller amount each month than what I had been paying the hospital previously (I know, this was not the way I should have handled this but hindsight).

After months of them taking the amount out of bank account regularly, they stopped taking money out of my account in August. I did not tell them to stop and did not receive anything that said they would stop taking the money out. The last payment was in the end of August and with my kids going back to school, I just didn't even think about it. I assumed they were still taking the money out.

On December 22, I received a letter in the mail stating that there is a court date set for January 17 because of my unpaid debt. I was not served by a process server or sheriff or anything, this came in my mailbox.

I just have a lot of questions:

  1. Is it legal for them to mail me a notice of a court hearing?
  2. Is it legal for them to take me to court on a debt that I had been making regular payments on?
  3. What should my next steps be?

I recognize that I owe this money, and right now the debt is at only $1,600, but I don't have the money to pay it off in full. I can pay half of that, but I want to make sure that this goes away.

I do not have money for a lawyer and I don't want to go to court. I do not trust this company; every time I have spoken to them they have been extremely rude to me and then just stopping taking the money without notifying me and sending me these court papers in the mail seems very shady. I plan on calling them once their office opens but any advice would be helpful.

Edit: I'd like to add that this debt does not show up anywhere on my credit report. I have pretty good credit and I'd like to do whatever I can to keep this from showing negatively on my credit report.

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  • Where is the court you’re supposed to show up at?
    – RonJohn
    Dec 25, 2022 at 16:58
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    Note that if you ignore this, they can get a summary judgment and take not only the $1600 but court costs and lawyers fees. I’d contact the courthouse by phone and then by registered mail. (Don’t ramble when communicating with them!!!)
    – RonJohn
    Dec 25, 2022 at 17:02
  • Debt collectors tend to be rude. It comes with the business; most of the accounts they get are people who are either far behind or who the original business thinks will be a pain to collect from. Squeezing blood out of stones is their specialty
    – keshlam
    Dec 25, 2022 at 17:03
  • @RonJohn it is in Sherburne County, MN. Thank you for the advice. I want to avoid any judgments.
    – Ash
    Dec 25, 2022 at 18:06
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    @RonJohn I am in Sherburne County. It's not a burden to go to court, plus they offer a Zoom option so I don't even have to be physically present.
    – Ash
    Dec 25, 2022 at 19:01

2 Answers 2

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TL;DR: You should talk to a lawyer. Find a consumer organization that helps people like you, or reach out to your local district attorney office and ask for assistance. It sounds like the debt collectors are being dishonest, to say the least, and the DA office may be interested in more than just helping you.


On December 22, I received a letter in the mail stating that there is a court date set for January 17 because of my unpaid debt. I was not served by a process server or sheriff or anything, this came in my mailbox.

You'll need to check in your jurisdiction how service must be made. Call the court office and ask them, they'll tell you. Usually it should be either personally (by a process server who then submits an affidavit that they identified you and personally delivered the summons to you), or through certified mail with return receipt, which you have to sign.

If they sued you but haven't followed the required process, the court cannot continue hearing the case. If however they did follow the required process and you don't show up - they'll win by default.

  1. Is it legal for them to mail me a notice of a court hearing?

See above, but probably not.

  1. Is it legal for them to take me to court on a debt that I had been making regular payments on?

You haven't. You'll need to show the signed payment agreement to the court, the statements that show they've been charging the amounts as agreed, and claim that you never asked them to stop. They'll have to prove that you caused them to stop in some way. If they fail - you'll be back on the payment agreement, if they succeed - they'll demand more.

  1. What should my next steps be? I recognize that I owe this money, and right now the debt is at only $1,600, but I don't have the money to pay it off in full. I can pay half of that, but I want to make sure that this goes away. I do not have money for a lawyer and I don't want to go to court.

You can confirm with the court directly if there's actually a case filed against you and a hearing set.

DO NOT USE THE PHONE NUMBER LISTED IN THE LETTER. Find out on the court website what their phone number is and call them at that number. Ask them if the case actually exists, if the summons were served correctly, and if they can refer you to a legal assistance program that must exist somewhere close (legal clinics in universities, pro-bono attorneys, consumer protection organizations, etc).

If the court case is in fact filed and the date is in fact set - do not ignore it, and do show up. You'll need to file a response with the court and at the hearing itself explain your situation.

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If they serve you a court notice just show up for court. The worst that will happen is that they will garnish your wages until it is paid off. It sounds like you are already making payments on a payment plan anyway. They can't put you in jail or anything like that. So don't be scared of court.

It is possible they are bluffing with the court notice to intimidate you, so best case you call their bluff.

I would send them a certified letter asking for proof of the debt and keep a copy with the receipt. Also, keep any proof of payments you have already made and have them ready to take with you to court.

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  • Thank you for your advice. I guess I am more concerned about any kind of judment or negative marks on my credit report. I will send a certified letter, hopefully that will get them to give me some more information.
    – Ash
    Dec 25, 2022 at 18:07
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    Whether they reply or not, show up in court unless you are told by the court that you don't have to. If you aren't there to defend yourself, they probably win by default. Note that unless you are trying to borrow (or applying for a lease) sometimes soon, credit rating doesn't usually matter a lot; it's worth protecting and improving, but taking a hit against it is part of the risk of using credit, even unavoidable credit.
    – keshlam
    Dec 25, 2022 at 20:10
  • @keshlam you're right. I am probably more worried about this than I need to be. I am hoping that they will settle with me and I can avoid this going on my credit report at all.
    – Ash
    Dec 25, 2022 at 20:54

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