One card was obtained in Texas, the other in Georgia. The default occured for an unexpected hospital stay and medical care while we lived in Columbia, SC. No payment has been made for 4 years. Since husband took job assignment in the middle east during this time, card companies did not have my address during these 4 years. Now we are back and living in Philadelphia, PA and sure enough these collectors are after me 24/7 and threatening to sue me. I read on FTC website that these debts may be time-barred which means they can't sue me and even though I still owe, I am not required to pay. On Suzie Orman's website she says Statute of Limitations on credit cards in SC is 3 years. But which states statutes apply? Where I lived when I applied? Where I defaulted? Where I live now? Please help.
If you live in PA now, you need to be primarily concerned with PA's statute of limitations, which is four years. These can be complicated issues if you move from one jurisdiction to another or if you leave the country for a time.
Is someone actually suing you now? If that happens, of course you should speak to a PA attorney for more guidance.
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Pennsylvania's Statute of Limitations on debt is four years. However, Pennsylvania has a borrowing statute that applies the the shorter of conflicting Statute of Limitations. Let's say that a credit card company's agreement states that the law of Delaware, which has a three-year Statute of Limitations, applies. If the the card company sues a debtor in Pennsylvania, which has a four-year Statute, the court may apply the shorter Delaware statute.
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2 lawyers agree
While I am sure that Suze Orman is a financial whiz, unless she is a licensed attorney, I am not sure that I would rely on her for legal advice, even if its correct unless you verify it.
I agree with my colleagues about the PA statute of limitations. Generally, a debt is governed by the statute of limitations either where the debtor resides, where the debt was taken out (if longer) or if the credit card agreement provides that it is governed by the law of a certain place, then look to the law of that place.
The only caution I would note that is that the statute is not always a simple thing and only a lawyer can answer you after knowing all the facts, reading the agreement and searching the applicable caselaw. A case in point is Georgia. If you just read the statutes, you would think that the statute of limitations for a credit card is 4 years. And you would be wrong because caselaw says that the 6 year statute applies. So caselaw cannot be overlooked.
The other issue note mentioned is tolling. See my website at www.rachelhunterlaw.com for a brief article on this. Tolling applies where you create a debt and relocate to another place. While you are gone from that place, the statute of limitations is "tolled". In other words, it does not run during this time period. Every state has tolling provisions and they are all different. A quick real life example. In an extreme case involving an Oregon resident who took out a credit card, the credit card agreement provided that it would be governed by New Hampshire law even though the debtor did not live there. The federal court found that under New Hampshire law, the statute was tolled and the 3 year statute of limitations did not expire even though more than 6 years had passed because the debtor was absent from the state! So you have to look at the credit card agreement too for any gotchas like this.
The bottom line is that if debt collectors are after you, you need to send them a debt dispute or what I call a "drop dead" letter (you essentially tell the creditor to "drop dead" because you are not paying since the statute of limitations has expired.) And even a single payment to a debt collector can revive the statute of limitations (see my articles on this too). So you do not want to pay on a debt barred by the statute unless you either have reason to get the debt resolved or you have obtained the advice of counsel first.
If debt collectors are just trying to collect, that can be dealt with. If they know you are represented by an attorney, then they can't call you. They also cannot call while they are trying to validate the debt. If you are sued, I would immediately seek out a litigation attorney who specializes in FDCPA violations (there may be a violation if the statute has expired and the collection agency is threatening to sue when it knows that suit cannot be brought). If you are just getting letters and phone calls, it would be my pleasure to get them off your back by sending them a letter for a reasonable fee. If you are interested, please contact me at email@example.com. I give free email consults and charge $50 for a phone consult.