There are several different perspectives to explore in this case.
Defense Against the Collection Lawsuit
The first issue is the length of time that has transpired since the original debt in the case. The longest statute of limitations in Virginia is 5 years. Because the debt is beyond the statute of limitation, you no longer have a legal obligation to pay. But you need to remember that the statute of limitations in Virginia is an affirmative defense, not a complete umbrella to a lawsuit. As a result, the threat is still real. They can sue, but you have a defense. You should plan for that defense.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
The collector in this case has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by threatening to sue past the statute of limitations. A threat to sue, when there is no right to sue, or there is a legal defense that will defeat the claim that the collector knows of, is a threat to take an action that is not permitted.
A similar case was filed in the Alabama District Court in August of 1987. In the case, Ms. Kimber sued the collector for attempting to collect debts from her and other Alabama residents after the debt had passed the statute of limitations. She argued this case not only because her creditor threatened to sue without giving proper notice, but also because the debt in question was considered “stale,” beyond the Alabama statute of limitations. In such a case where it seems pretty apparent that the creditor has violated the FDCPA, it is prudent that you hire an attorney to review your case
For an additional examples of similar FDCPA cases, check out Freyermuth vs. Credit Bureau Services.
But should you pay anyway?
The next question in this case to consider – does this debt actually belong to you? While the statute of limitations on this debt may have already expired, if you have the money, you should consider paying, because it is the right thing to do. This is isn’t a legal obligation, just the right thing to do. But you need to consider the credit reporting consequences. It is possible that by paying the debt, that the collector may report that the debt is now paid, or that you made a payment, restarting the time the debt can be reported on your credit report.
Should creditor be reporting debt on your credit report?
Lastly, it is also important to investigate whether or not the creditor is actually reporting this debt on your credit report. Two issues may arise if this is the case: 1.) If the debt is false, then you need to follow the necessary procedures with your creditor and the credit bureaus to dispute this; 2.) If the debt is not false, but is past the statute of limitations, you may also dispute.
In either case, it is good to hire an attorney to map out your options.
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Krumbein Consumer Legal Services, Inc.
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