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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • What is the statute of limitations in the state of alabama for being forced to pay a past credit card balance?

    Just received a call today about a past due credit card, the last time I paid a bill was 4/27/08. Just wondering if the sol has expired to have to pay this debt back. The credit card was suppose to be paid by my ex wife in a court order in our dev...

    John’s Answer

    As John mentioned, the statute is normally not going to be over 6 years.

    If you last paid on 4-27-08, then the first missed payment would have been around that time in May 2008. So you are very close on the six years.

    Keep in mind that there are THREE time limits involved in debt collection.

    1. Time to sue you -- statute of limitations.
    2. Time to credit report -- about 7.5 years from when you first missed a payment. The technical answer is 7 years after the first major delinquency. So you probably have another year or year and a half on this.
    3. Time to collect -- unlimited.

    Be careful about paying on a debt that is past the SOL (statute of limitations) as the collector will argue this restarts the SOL. Its not quite that simple but why give them this argument?

    If the debt collector threatens to sue you (or does sue you) after the SOL is over, this violates the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act).

    If the debt collector credit reports (or threatens to credit report) after the 7 year period for credit reporting, this violates the FDCPA.

    If the collector harasses you -- lies to you -- calls family members (other than spouse) --- calls neighbors, etc. this can violate the law.

    Best wishes and if you want a free information package including a book on stopping debt collectors, contact my office through our website or by calling us.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Shocking department store credit account closure & a letter from collectors. How I proceed without damaging my credit?

    Hello, I have had a credit card from Kohl's department store (no delinq for many years. All of a sudden I received a letter from a collection agency stating that Kohl's received information that I've contemplated filing for bankruptcy ( which is ...

    John’s Answer

    Ron's advice is critical -- pull your real credit reports to see what is being reported.

    Get with a consumer lawyer -- Ron or me or someone else -- in Alabama to find out your rights.

    This is an odd situation and I would carefully look at this debt collector and what they are saying and doing. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects you from abusive debt collectors and if this collector is saying you have defaulted (by "thinking about bankruptcy") and you have to pay the full amount in 30 days, etc. this may violate the law.

    I'll say again this is a strange situation I have never heard of in representing hundreds of consumers against debt collectors. So either it is a new tactic, there is a scam going on, or something else is happening.

    Best wishes with this and I hope you get to the bottom of it ASAP.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Should I pursue and action in Federal or State court?

    Recently after "losing" documents 17 times or allowing them to go stale Bank of America sold our mortgage just as we finished the trial for HAMP. I have read that several employees have stated they were told to "lose" paperwork, sometime throwing ...

    John’s Answer

    You should get with a foreclosure defense lawyer who is familiar with RESPA and the new CFPB rules.

    These new federal rules prohibit this type of conduct where Bank of America and other mortgage companies routinely lose or ignore paperwork that you send in.

    There ways to fight this using what are called "request for information" and "notice of error" requests.

    Up until January of this year this type of misconduct could occur and it was sometimes hard to fight back against it. But as of January, you have a lot more rights.

    Get with a lawyer in Connecticut who is familiar with this type of law.

    At least in Alabama, on this type of violation, we would file this case in federal court. We can get into federal court because of the amount were demanding but also for the separate reason that you're suing under federal law.

    I wish you the best and hope that you are successful in your dealings with Bank of America.

    John G. Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • What can I do? If my loan payment has not been sent to the dealership yet?

    I purchased a car from a dealership on Monday and it has some issues but I am overall just not happy with the car. I called the dealership who got kinda ugly with me on the phone and told me to bring it in and they will fix it for me. I told them ...

    John’s Answer

    There is no 48 hour window in general to change your mind but as the previous answer indicated you can have some rights under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) if the product is defective.

    My suggestion is write a letter, certified mail, to the dealership and explain the problems and what you want done about the problems. This is if you want to handle this on your own.

    Otherwise, get with a lawyer to help you with this. Depending on the value of the car and amount of the loan it may make sense to hire a lawyer to help you so you don't get stuck with a huge loan on a bad car.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama
    www.AlabamaConsumer.com

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  • If your spouse is unemployed and owes money, can creditors garnish assets and or wages of employed spouse?

    Can creditors go into the retirement of the unemployed who owes money due to job loss? Can they sue the spouse or make the spouse liable for the debt of the spouse who is in debt due to job loss?

    John’s Answer

    The only person who can be sued is the person who is legally responsible for the debt. If your spouse, for example, owes on a credit card, then you cannot be sued unless you are on the credit card as well.

    I don't mean as an authorized user but instead you are an account holder on the credit card.

    Sometimes creditors take the position that spouses must be responsible -- legally liable -- for each other's debts but this is not the law.

    As far as retirement, I would need to know more about the situation but normally retirement accounts cannot be touched by a creditor.

    Get with a consumer lawyer to find out in detail your rights so you can make the correct decisions. Sounds like y'all are going through a hard time and I wish you the best.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama
    www.AlabamaConsumer.com

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  • I received a notice from the district clerk of one single line notifying me a motion to revive a judgement

    was filed. It was for a judgment from 2003 that i never knew about in the first place. I did not get any copy of that motion so that i could respond so i went to the clerk and got a copy of the motion. It says in the motion that a copy of the moti...

    John’s Answer

    • Selected as best answer

    Read Ron's answer for an excellent overview of judgments. The only thing I'll add is you need to look at this lawsuit and figure out if you were properly served.

    If you were, then the judgment will stand.

    If not, then you can oppose it.

    If you have questions about whether you were properly served, contact Ron or you can contact my firm. Either one of us will be happy to help you see your options.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Disputed information on credit report what can I do next

    I received a letter from experian saying documentation I sent they was not able to use. But I sent reciept showing paid and zero balance when report shows I owe balance. Seems like they are stalling for time do they still have 30 days from when I ...

    John’s Answer

    As the other lawyers suggested, get with a lawyer who is experienced in suing the credit reporting agencies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

    We find Experian to be the most arrogant agency.

    They routinely reject documents and refuse to investigate.

    I'm unclear if they actually investigated and said they will not accept your documents or if they refused to investigate at all. Understand they always say they can't use the documents. Even when it is the perfect document, they reject.

    But if you don't send the document, and sue, they say "If you had sent us the document we would have fixed it."

    Sit down with a FCRA attorney and find out if your case is ready to sue on or if you need to dispute again. Also, you will find out if you can sue the Furnisher of information -- Capital One, Bank of America, etc. -- if they are supplying ("furnishing") this false information.

    Best wishes and don't give up -- that's what Experian wants you to do. To give up. Keep pushing it and you'll get this resolved.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I have a credit card collection account for $3700.

    I wanted to remove the collection from my credit report. The original account is not on my credit report and and its 4yr old account but the collection company put on my credit report in septmember 2013. If I negotiate with them and if they don't ...

    John’s Answer

    There are a couple of issues:

    How long can a collection account stay on your credit report?

    How long does a collector have to sue you under your state law (statute of limitations)?

    On credit reporting, it is basically 7 years from when you get seriously behind. This is completely separate from the length of time to sue you.

    I don't know the statute of limitations in Texas on this type of suit but I'm sure a Texas lawyer will let you know.

    As far as removing a collection account from your credit report, you can always negotiate this. They may want you to pay the full amount or even more in order to get it removed. Make sure you have a written promise from the agency to remove this from your credit report.

    If the collection agency has violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) or your state equivalent, then when you sue you can always make that a part of your settlement requirements that the agency remove the credit reporting.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Jus learned that I was put on a relatives checking account without my knowledge. Am I responsible for their debt when they die?

    I just found out that I had been added to a relatives checking accounts some time ago without my consent or knowledge and I live in another state. Can I be held financially responsible for their debts now with their demise? I have learned there is...

    John’s Answer

    Without knowing more details it is impossible to give a yes or no answer but I will say this:

    I have never seen someone added to a checking account who somehow -- simply through ownership of the checking account -- ever owed money for debts of the other person.

    Has your relative passed away?

    Why are you the sole owner?

    Have any creditors contacted you?

    Again I don't see how you could possibly owe any money based upon what you described.

    Sorry for the uncertainty you have been dealing with -- hopefully you can get some more details ASAP.

    Best wishes!

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I am being sued tomorrow in small claims in Alabama. The suing party has no documentation of any kind regarding the disputed

    charges to their claim. Neither them or their lawyer will respond as to what proof they have to their case so I can prepare to defend my self. I also will need to hire an attorney to handle my counter suit of breaking and entering etc. If I loose ...

    John’s Answer

    In small claims court the other side has no obligation to give you proof before trial. That's part of the purpose of small claims -- it is easy and cheap and fast.

    I'm not sure if your trial is tomorrow or happened today but hopefully this will help you in some way.

    The company suing must prove it owns the debt and you owe the debt.

    If this is Capital One suing, maybe not so hard.

    But if a debt buyer such as LVNV, Midland Funding, or Portfolio Recovery, then they really struggle with proving ownership.

    As was mentioned in earlier answer, if you lose you have time to appeal. Normally that is 14 days and you start the case over in Circuit Court.

    Feel free to contact my office at 205-879-2447. I will mention this last thing -- you don't need to be thinking about a counterclaim unless the company suing you has already violated the law. If this is a debt collector, it normally is a bad idea to do a counterclaim. If you have a legitimate claim, file it in federal court.

    I'll put a few links below that may help you.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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