My Loan Creditor Filed a Lawsuit Against Me


If you received student loans or personal loans, or if you purchased furniture or appliances where you agreed to fixed installment payments on a weekly or monthly basis (i.e., retail installment loans), you have a loan creditor. If you fail to make your scheduled payments, a loan creditor may file a lawsuit against you to obtain a judgment. If your loan is secured by a vehicle, go to the Car Title Loans video or Car Title Loans page

Below is information that may be helpful if a creditor files a lawsuit against you, but it is not a substitute for legal advice. There are other rules and laws that may apply to your situation, but these are common rules and laws that apply in civil cases.

             
1  COMPLAINT AND SERVICE
  • A process server might serve papers from the court on you or someone living at the home, indicating a civil lawsuit has been filed against you because you stopped paying or owe money on a loan. The papers might also be left on the door and mailed to you if the judge authorized it. You may be served a small claims lawsuit by certified mail.
  • The complaint will explain how much the creditor/plaintiff thinks you owe and might include the accounting ledger showing how that amount was calculated. The complaint will say an answer must be filed within 20 days.

  • NOTE: The creditor does not have to demand payment before filing the lawsuit. 
  2  JURISDICTION
  • Depending on how much is owed, the case can be filed in small claims court, justice court, or superior court. In small claims court, the plaintiff cannot be represented by an attorney and the amount owed must be under $3,500. Small claims have different rules and move through the court process much quicker than civil cases in justice or superior court. Go to www.azcourts.gov/smallclaims, or What Happens in Small Claims Court webpage or watch the video for more information about small claims. Justice and superior court's rules of procedure are different, but still similar. 
  3  PARTIES TO THE LAWSUIT
  • The parties to the lawsuit are the plaintiff (creditor) and the defendant. 
  • If you do not recognize the name of the company that is suing you, it might be that the original creditor who lent you the money sold the loan to a debt buyer. The debt buyer has the same rights as the original creditor. 
              
4  ANSWER
  • It is important you read all of the documents and decide if you agree or disagree with the allegations or if you need more information.
  • You have 20 calendar days from service of process to file an answer (AOC LJCV4F) to the lawsuit. For detailed steps on how to file the answer, watch the video or go to How to File an Answer page. 
  • All documents filed with the court must also be provided to the other party.
  • You will be required to pay a filing fee when filing an answer. If you cannot afford the filing fee, you can ask the clerk for a fee waiver/deferral application.

  • WARNING: If you fail to file a written answer, you may not get your day in court and the judge may enter a default judgment against you. 
             
5  COURT/TRIAL
  • If you file an answer to the complaint, the court will either set the case for a case management or pretrial conference, a mediation, or arbitration depending on the practice of the assigned court. That will be an opportunity to try to settle the case or find out how the plaintiff plans on proceeding with the case and what evidence they have.
  • Everyone has the right to take their case to trial if they want to. If you agree you owe the money, you might want to consider trying to resolve the case without a trial by reaching out to the plaintiff before the time to file the answer has expired, or doing it at the hearing set by the court.
  • Note that the plaintiff/creditor may file for a Motion for Summary Judgment. You will need to follow the instructions and respond in writing, or you may have a judgment entered against you without a trial.
  6  THE HEARING
  • Doublecheck the date and time of the hearing and make sure you arrive at the courthouse at least 15 minutes before the hearing time. Go to AZCourtHelp.org and use the "Find my Court" tab to find your court's location information. 
  • If the judge calls the case and you are not there, the judge may not consider your written defense and enter a default judgment against you. Any party who does not appear at the hearing risks having a judgment entered against them. 
  7  JUDGMENT
  • If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff/creditor, a judgment may be entered against you and interest is charged at a court-approved rate until it is paid in full. A judgment creditor can then take legal steps to enforce the judgment by garnishing your wages or bank accounts and placing a lien on any property you own. A judgment will last 10 years on a credit report and can be renewed.

  • WARNING: The losing party may be ordered to pay reasonable attorney's fees to the winning party.

  • Once a judgment has been paid in full, you should get a satisfaction of judgment signed by the creditor. Be sure to file this document with the court so it is reflected on your credit report.