You're asking if it is legal for a creditor to sue you without warning you ahead of time? Absolutely legal. Unless you have a defense to the claim - meaning you can show you don't owe the money, then the case isn't getting dismissed. You certainly can look into why this case is sitting for so long, and there may be a procedural way to get the case temporarily dismissed, but if they want to sue you for the money, then they will.
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There is no obligation on the part of any plaintiff to inform the defendant of their intent to sue prior to filing a case. Based on the facts you have provided, it appears that you have not filed an answer or other responsive pleading in this case. New York City Civil Court is notoriously overburdened and cases, even those vigorously pursued, can languish. However, this SHOULD NOT give you false comfort. You have a statutorily imposed obligation to respond to the complaint. Failure to do so may result in a default judgment. Depending upon the issues in your case, it may be advisable to retain counsel.
Separately, there is a federal statute known as the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act ["FDCPA"] which prohibits a variety of conduct by third party debt collectors. If the debt collection agency violated any aspect of the statute, you may be able to seek a remedy in federal court.
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1. In my experience, creditors file lawsuits in order to obtain default judgments because the vast majority of alleged debtors do not file answers.
2. It is legal for anyone to file a lawsuit against someone else without giving warning, however they must follow the Court procedures for doing so.
3. If I were in your position I would file an answer as quickly as possible including affirmative defenses and possibly counter claims. Otherwise they will eventually file for a default judgment against you.
4. By filing an answer you can eventually have the case dismissed if certain factors are present.
5. If I were you, I would consult with a debtor's rights attorney as soon as possible to protect my rights.
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