Written by attorney David L. Friedman

How to kill 'zombie debt' using the statute of limitations

They call it zombie debt because it’s so old that by the time a debt collector picks it up, you’ve totally forgotten about it. Creditors sell old, uncollected debt to debt buyers for pennies on the dollar–that’s why you may be getting phone calls or letters on a debt you don’t even remember having. Just as there are very specific ways to kill a zombie (click here only if you don’t scare easily), there are specific defenses you may have against zombie debt. One of these is the statute of limitations.

Statute of limitations: The statute of limitations is the legal term for how long a party can sue you on a debt. The statute of limitations for suing for breach of a credit card contract in Minnesota is six years. This means that a creditor or debt buyer can sue you anytime up to six years from the date of your last purchase or last payment, whichever was later. There are some exceptions to this, so you’ll want to consult an attorney.

Special statute of limitations: There may be a shorter statute of limitations if the debt was a store credit card. It’s a store card if you could only use it at one store (store-branded cards with Visa or Mastercard logos don’t count.) Those lawsuits are governed by a different law, called the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), and they may have a shorter statute of limitations of only four years.

Super-special bonus statute of limitations: Minnesota has a borrowing statute. In short, this means that if a legal claim “arises" in another state with a shorter statute of limitations, that shorter statute of limitations may apply. This may be relevant for credit card companies based in states such as Delaware, which has a three-year statute of limitations. But be warned, the law is tricky on this. We would recommend you only try this defense under supervision of an experienced attorney.

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