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My bank account was garnished for unpaid medical bills, but I never received a court summons regarding a judgement.

Minneapolis, MN |

The total debt is $2500, and they "Garnished" my savings account, checking account, and my son's checking account for a total of $839.04. Can they do this without warning me in a legal document? Can they continue to take out an amount that is close to half my monthly income, as they did this time? Also, is it too late to make arrangements and get the judgement off my credit?

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Attorney answers 4

Posted

Many potential problems here. You'd have to consult a lawyer and bring in all of the documents you have. I'd be very surprised if you weren't served at one point with a summons and complaint.

Asker

Posted

Wouldn't I know if I had been served? Wouldn't I had to have signed something?

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Posted

No signature would have been required. You or someone in your household, if you were served at home, would just have been handed a few pages of paper.

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Posted

You also would have been sent a garnishment exemptions notice.

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Posted

You can search for yourself at http://pa.courts.state.mn.us/default.aspx. Look under civil or judgments.

Asker

Posted

Thank you, I found the court case. It isn't completely clear, but I gather that they say I didn't answer, therefore entered a judgment: 03/11/2013 Summons and Complaint 03/11/2013 Certificate of Representation 03/11/2013 Affidavit of Service 03/11/2013 Notice of Case Filing 03/11/2013 Schedule Court Trial 04/01/2013 Affidavit of No Answer 04/01/2013 Judgment, Notice of Entry and Statement 04/01/2013 Processed Judgment Entry and Docketing 04/01/2013 Notice of Entry and Docketing of Judgment What is my best recourse at this point? Should I contact the lawyer for the hospital, or get my own lawyer first?

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Posted

Probably get your own lawyer. For an hour's worth of work, you could probably figure out quite a bit. Any idea how you might have been served?

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Jeremy Judson Cobb

Posted

The affidavit of service will say how and when and by whom and on whom.

Posted

Although you say you weren't served with any legal documents, if a creditor isn't able to find you to deliver legal paperwork to you, the court can authorize some kind of "substituted service" in most communities. Have your bank & your employer provide you with a copy of the garnishment paperwork and follow this trail of breadcrumbs to the court file. Many courts now post all of their records on the court website so you may not even have to pay for parking to obtain a complete record of what has happened. If the records don't make sense, you will want to consult with a local attorney for additional advice. Hope this perspective helps!

Asker

Posted

Thank you, I did go to the courts website for my area and I found my case. It appears that a judgment was entered because they say I didn't answer. Would it be best to call their attorney and try to negotiate payment options to stop further garnishment - or is it too late at this point? 03/11/2013 Summons and Complaint 03/11/2013 Certificate of Representation 03/11/2013 Affidavit of Service 03/11/2013 Notice of Case Filing 03/11/2013 Schedule Court Trial 04/01/2013 Affidavit of No Answer 04/01/2013 Judgment, Notice of Entry and Statement 04/01/2013 Processed Judgment Entry and Docketing 04/01/2013 Notice of Entry and Docketing of Judgment

Dorothy G Bunce

Dorothy G Bunce

Posted

It doesn't hurt to see if the creditor will accept payments in order to stop a wage garnishment because with a garnishment a lot of your money is applied towards court administrative expenses and doesn't go towards reducing the principal.

Paul H. Weig

Paul H. Weig

Posted

You need to go to the Courthouse and get that Affidavit of Service and see what it says. A copy costs $8. You don't need a certified copy. If it shows the summons was delivered to someone else at your residence, you were served. If it was delivered to you at a location you have never been to, the process server is mistaken and you can challenge the judgment. If the service was not valid, the judgment is voidable, which means the Court will vacate it and make the Plaintiff start over. That requires a Motion to Vacate. Unless you are very savvy, I don't recommend trying to undertake a Motion to Vacate on your own. Without a lawyer you could actually lose and close off any further avenues to attack the judgment. Debt collection attorneys are not known for playing fair against self-represented persons.

Posted

Many states have abbreviated litigation avenues for the collection of a debt only. These include confession of judgment which would not require service of a summons. However - you would have had to sign the confession at some point. The facts you present also indicate a rather high garnishment. I suggest you gather as much documentation as possible and contact an experienced attorney in your area.

Posted

They did not garnish your bank accounts - they levied them. Garnishment is typically for wages. As for whether they can do this, a couple of thoughts. First, if it was a public hospital (like HCMC, for example), they typically turn over the debt to the Dept. of Revenue for collection, and they can initiate a levy without a lawsuit. Otherwise, you were probably served with a small claims petition (or they couldn't find you and the summons was published somewhere - check court administration). They can take whatever is not exempt that they find in your bank accounts, and they could also actually initiate a wage garnishment. Your son's account must be joint with your name on it, making it your account as well. You can always try to make a deal, but they have a judgment and don't have to accept anything other than payment-in-full.

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Paul H. Weig

Paul H. Weig

Posted

Actually the statutes use the term garnishment for both wage garnishment and non-earnings garnishments. the distinction between Garnishment and Levy in Minnesota statutes is that the Garnishment is the order to withhold money owed to the debtor, and the levy is the order to remit money withheld or owed to the debtor pursuant to a writ of execution. Your son has the right to have his money returned, but he has to supply bank statements and other information to show that it was his money. If you have put money, or taken money out of his account the statute specifies that you use a first-in, first-out accounting method to determine whose money was garnished.

Paul H. Weig

Paul H. Weig

Posted

The Statute does not require that you get any advance notice of a bank garnishment. If you think about it, the reason is obvious, if they told you they were going to do it, you'd take your money out of the bank. The statute requires only that they send you a copy within five days of the date the bank receives the Garnishment Summons. The Rules specify that those are business days, weekends and holidays are excluded from calculating any time period shorter than 7 days. I know that Messerli & Kramer typically holds the debtor's copy for five days after they mail the Summons to the bank. I suspect that many debt collection attorneys do the same. The copy you receive will include copies of the Exemption Form that you would use to claim the money is exempt. If you haven't received it yet, you can find it on the MN Courts' website, but they can't ignore an exemption claim just because it is not on the proper form.

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