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I have been sent a subpoena from my credit card company... What should I do?

Philadelphia, PA |

My past credit card company sent me a subpoena for a $800 debt. I lost my job in 2009 and was not able to make payments. I called the company and explained that my unemployment compensation would not be enough for me to cover the payments. My limit was about $300. They continued to charge me and would nott close out the account. I am no longer receiving unemployment nor do I have a job at this time. What should I expect at the hearing? Do I have to pay the full $800 or will I be able to make a settlement for less? I also recently got married. Would they be able to garnish my husband's bank account? Most of the debt are their crazy fees. Do I have any chance on fighting this?

As far as paying a lump sum, I will not have any extra money to do so until about a week after our scheduled hearing.

Attorney Answers 4


  1. Best answer

    Unlikely that you received a subpoena. You were probably sued in small claims court. I do not know when your hearing is, but if this is your debt and you have no valid defenses, there is not much to be accomplished by showing up. The primary questions for the court are: (1) is this your debt; and (2) how much do you owe.

    Once the hearing is held, judgment will be entered. The judgment has to sit for 10 days before it becomes final. Under PA law, you can exempt no more than $300 in any one bank account. Do not have joint accounts with anyone else including your husband. If you have one, then get your name off there or have him open up a new account (some banks require that). Once it is separate, the creditor cannot garnish your husband's bank account. PA is an equitable distribution state - what is your husband's is his and what is yours is yours (pretty much - exceptions for divorce are not relevant here). I would suggest that you own no assets going forward. If the car is in your name, and paid for, you may want to consider adding your husband to the title, but it depends on the value of the car. PA has no exemption for cars. The exception is if you would be considering bankruptcy because of your other debts. I would leave the title to anything alone if you are considering bankruptcy.

    The credit card does not really care why you went into default. I'm sorry you lost your job, but from the credit card company's perspective, you owe the debt. The credit card companies do not close your account when it goes into default. They close the account as far as letting you continue to charge on it, but closing it does not stop interest and late fees and other junk fees (over the limit fees etc.). The fees may be crazy but the creditor is entitled to recover 100% of them if they have a mind to do so.

    When is the hearing? Who is suing you? Who is the law firm representing them? All of this makes a difference as to what you do next. Do you have at least 50% of the total debt sought right now? If not, when will you have it? Before or after the hearing? If you have the funds, call the law firm. Unlikely you will reach an attorney but there are non-attorney debt collectors. Offer to pay 50% of the debt in a lump sum. The firm may balk - each law firm has limits as to what it can do and the creditor calls the shots. If the law firm says no that it wants 80%, then ask them to submit your offer to the creditor along with your hardship information (you lost your job and any other hardship - loss/reduced income, medical issues are the best). The worst that will happen is that they say no. Raise the offer to 60%. Eventually you and they will agree on something less than 100%. Most creditors will settle for 50% to 80% once a lawsuit is filed. If you don't have all of the funds, see if the firm will let you use what you have as a down payment and pay the settlement balance over time. If they say no. hang onto your funds, save up until you have the balance. Just realize that judgments earn interest at a rate of 6% per year which accrues daily so you need to get this resolved.

    Get a settlement letter memorializing the settlement before you send in payment. Pay by certified bank check or money order. Make a copy before you send it. Send the funds by UPS or certified mail so you can track delivery. Followup within 30 days to make sure they received the funds and ask the lawyer to mark any judgment as satisfied (or get a dismissal of the lawsuit if you pay prior to judgment).


  2. Unfortunately, job loss, unemployment compensation, "credit limits," un-closed credit card accounts, continuing late fees and interest, "crazy fees," etc. are all utterly irrelevant to determining the legal rights and obligations of debtors and creditors when a judgment has been entered on the debt in question.

    If a judgment is entered against a debtor and it's backed by a writ of execution, a judgment debtor must pay the judgment from available, nonexempt assets. A major exception is a bankruptcy discharge relieving a judgment debtor from repayment. It is hard to conceive a bankruptcy as an appropriate solution to a small debt if that's the only motivating factor.

    Despite the operation of law - it's there when persons cannot agree - parties to a dispute may voluntarily agree to different outcomes. So, a debtor and creditor may agree to settle a debt or a judgment for less than or on different terms than specified in a judgment.

    Generally, a spouse's pre-marital debts are not the responsibility of the other spouse. Exceptions can and do occur, such as when the other spouse "makes" the debt his or hers or validly agrees to be a surety or guarantor or by other operation of law.

    Disclaimer: Nothing stated herein is legal advice. For legal advice, consult an attorney; I am not your attorney at this time. This response may constitute ATTORNEY ADVERTISING which has not been approved by the Supreme Courts of New Jersey or Pennsylvania or the Court of Appeals of Maryland. I am a federally-designated “debt relief agency” that provides, where appropriate, relief under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.


  3. I don't think you have received a subpoena. I think you received a summons and complaint. I suggest going to a local legal aid to see if they can assist in defending this lawsuit. It is also worth seeing a consumer attorney. It is very possible that the creditor has violated some of your rights. If that is the case you may have a lawsuit against the creditor and use that as leverage in wiping the debt

    Kazerouni Law Group, APC is a law firm concentrating its efforts in the area of consumer law, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1692 et seq. (“FDCPA”), and California's Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, California Civil Code §§ 1788-1788.32 ("Rosenthal Act"). Our lawyers are specially trained in the Federal FDCPA, Consumer Defense, and other consumer related matters. Our goal is to protect you against unfair, deceptive and abusive debt collection practices. Creditors, professional debt collectors, and attorneys who violate the law are subject to paying damages, statutory penalties, and the consumer's attorneys fees and costs. If you feel you have been abused, deceived or treated unfairly, you may need a lawyer. We can be reached at 800-400-6808, or through one of the evaluation forms on this or at our own website at www.kazlg.com. The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as forming an attorney-client relationship. No attorney-client relationship between the reader and Abbas Kazerounian has been formed. If you are in the State of California and would be interested in a formal free consultation either visit Kazerouni Law Group, APC website at www.kazlg.com or call me toll free at 800-400-6808.


  4. I agree that it seems as through you were probably served with a summons and complaint, not a subpoena. That being said, you can consult with a local consumer protection attorney to determine your best method moving forward.

    ** LEGAL DISCLAIMER ** My response above is not legal advice and it does not establish an attoreny-client relationship. When responding to questions posted on Avvo, I provide a general purpose response based on California law as I am licensed in California. In reviewing my response, you are specifically advised that your use of, or reliance upon any response I provide is not advisable. I do not have all relevant background details or facts related to your issue / matter, thus I am not in a position to give you legal advice. Further, your review, use of, or reliance upon my response does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us nor does it qualify as a legal consultation for any purpose. For specific advice regarding your particular circumstances, you should consult and retain local counsel. Law Offices of Eric J. Gold www.EGoldLaw.com Telephone: 818-279-2737 Email: service@egoldlaw.con

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