What is a Civil Action?
Generally, a credit card or other unsecured entity a person may owe money to cannot do anything against him or her except report negatively on his or her credit, unless and until, they initiate a lawsuit and obtain a judgment against that person. This type of action is referred to as a civil action or lawsuit.
What is the Difference Between a Court of Common Pleas and a Magisterial District Court?
A Magisterial District Courts serves as the initial tier of Pennsylvania's Judicial System and maintains jurisdiction over criminal preliminary arraignment and minor criminal offenses, traffic offenses, landlord / tenant suits, and civil claims where damages do not go over $12,000.
In contrast, claims for all amounts of money can be made in the Courts of Common Pleas in the County having jurisdiction of the case covering the area of either where the Defendant resides or where the cause of action arose.
The Court of Common Pleas for the county of Bucks is in Doylestown and it oversees the 18 Magisterial Courts strategically located in the county such as the ones in Bensalem, Bristol, Levittown, Warminster, Fallsington, Morrisville, Richboro, Warrington, Quakertown, Newtown, New Britain, Jamison, Ottsville, Jamison and the one in Doylestown.
The Court of Common Pleas for the county of Montgomery is in Norristown and it overseas 30 Magisterial Courts strategically located in the county such as the ones in East Norriton, Norristown, Harleysville, Conshohocken, Jenkintown, Red Hill, Colmar, Willow Grove, Bridgeport, Abington, Pottstown, Hatboro, Blue Bell, Lansdale, Lafayette Hill, King of Prussia, Oreland, Horsham, Narberth, Collegeville, Limerick, Ambler,
The Court of Common Pleas for the county of Lehigh is in Allentown and it overseas approximately 14 Magisterial Courts strategically located in the county such as the ones in Allentown, Bethlehem, Slatington, Whitehall, Coopersburg, and Emmaus.
As previously stated, there are many local Magisterial Courts in each county and they are much less formal, less expensive and much faster than the Common Pleas Courts of each County. Cases heard in Magisterial Court are also appealable by whoever loses with an automatic right to appeal to the Common Pleas Court in that County.
It is advisable for anyone who loses or wishes to appeal to hire an attorney to represent him or her because of the complexities involved.
What is the Credit Card Lawsuit / Civil Suit Process?
Cases in the Courts of Common Pleas are initiated by the Creditor filing something called a Complaint in Civil Action against the person being sued. The Creditor must then obtain the services of the county sheriff to serve the person being sued, now known as the Defendant, which is simply a matter of the sheriff handing a copy of the Complaint to the Defendant.
Next, the Defendant has a total 20 days to file what are known as preliminary objections to the Complaint if warranted and 30 days to file an Answer to the Complaint. It is important for the Defendant to have reviewed the Complaint extremely carefully when deciding how to respond because not bringing up an objection in this phase may destroy a Defendant's chances of having the Complaint thrown out or preclude the Defendant from bringing up an important issue at a later time. Consequently, it is usually advised that a Defendant hire an attorney if he or she wishes to contest the case or wishes to have any legitimate chances of being successful.
If the Defendant's preliminary objections are successful, the Judge may order the Creditor to amend it's Complaint within a given time frame, if it can, or may dismiss the Complaint against the Defendant outright. If the Judge issues an order overruling the preliminary objections, the Defendant must then file a responsive answer to the Complaint, usually within 20 days along with any new matter he or she wishes to include.
Next, the matter will usually be scheduled for Arbitration if the matter is under $50,000. Most arbitrations take place with panels of three attorneys that hear both sides of the case and then issue a ruling afterward. Either party is then usually free to appeal the decision and have a hearing in front of a judge but will have to pay a fee to appeal.
Once the civil case moves in front of a judge, a trial is put on and the decision rendered by the court is generally very difficult to appeal unless there has been some sort of procedural error by the court.
Most Important Thing to Remember About Being Sued in a Credit Card Lawsuit
Remember, once you are served by a Sheriff with any type of Complaint, the clock starts ticking and you must respond to and defend the complaint in written and correct format with the Court within 20 days to avoid a judgment being entered against you. Believe it or not, the majority of people do not respond to these mostly poorly written complaints and end up with judgments against them. They then come to us only when their bank accounts are frozen or a Sheriff is at their door taking inventory to sell their stuff. If you act early, there are many options and they start to dwindle the longer you wait.
Alex Tuttle has been recognized and rated as a Top Attorney and Distinguished Attorney in the area of Civil Litigation, as well as a Client Choice and Top Contributor by Avvo and regularly, represents clients in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Lehigh, and Northampton Counties. If you are in need of any assistance or have any questions, please contact us to go over your situation. We would love the opportunity to help you and get your life back to normal.