The second great power of Discovery is the Motion to Produce Documents.
When a bill collector sues for nonpayment of a debt, they also open themselves up to answer questions–finally!!–and to provide documents.
What type of documents? Well, any document relevant to the debt.
Sued on a medical debt?
- Demand to see the invoices and the claims filed with the health insurance company.
- Demand the intake forms.
- Demand copies of all correspondence with the medical insurers.
- Demand a copy of the Master Service Agreement between the hospital and the insurance company to see if the hospital had a contractual duty to file a claim.
Sued on a on a credit card account?
- Demand a copy of the written contract.
- Demand a copy of all billing statements.
- Demand a copy of all notices of interest rate changes.
Rule 26 of the Nebraska Rules of Civil Procedure requires all parties to a lawsuit to provide requested documents with in 30 days.
Does the bill collector have these documents? Probably not. In fact, about the only thing a bill collector has is a list of names and amounts owed by each customer. A bill collector typically has nothing other than your name, address and the amount you owe. They have no actual proof of the debt.
What does a bill collector do when you demand documents?
- They ask their client to provide them.
- They slow down and start looking–actually looking–at the lawsuit.
- They think about all the time it will take to provide the documents.
- They start thinking about accepting a settlement of the debt.
What if the bill collector cannot provide the documents? Sometimes a creditor does not provide documents because they are not available. They can’t get them. All they have is a list of the debts, but no actual proof of the debt. No contracts or statements or payment histories. In short, they have no proof of the debt.
Sometimes they just ignore the request for documents. Then what? A few options exist.
- File a Motion to Compel Discovery to demand the documents and schedule a hearing with the court.
- File a Motion for Summary Judgment. If they cannot produce the documents then there is no proof of the debt. Had the debt truly existed they would have documents to prove it, but since they don’t have the documents the court may dismiss the entire case.
Requesting documents is a powerful tool bill collectors do not want you to exercise. Collection litigation firms are not designed to prove the existence of debts. Rather, they process debt cases with no proof at all. It’s all about process and not proof. That process is premised on consumers not fighting back.
Demand those documents. Fight back!
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