Debt Collection Lawsuits in Common Pleas Arbitration

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Credit card companies, debt buyers, and collection agencies sue thousands of consumers each year in Pennsylvania’s common pleas courts. BCJ Law’s debt defense attorney defends Pennsylvania residents in collection lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania’s common pleas courts. Our clients don’t owe us anything unless we win their case.

If you need help with a collection lawsuit, read our debt collection lawsuit page. To get a free case review from BCJ Law’s debt defense attorney, call 1-800-997-5561, or complete our contact form.

What is a court of common pleas?

Two debt collectors "filed lawsuits against consumers without having the intent to prove many of the debts."

CFPB Press Release (2015).

There’s a court of common pleas (also called common pleas court or “CCP”) in all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. The common pleas court usually is located in the seat of each county. For example, the Allegheny County court of common pleas is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

While the vast majority of debt collection lawsuits are filed in magistrate court, some debt collectors sue exclusively in common pleas court. Debt collectors also must sue in the common pleas court if the amount of debt they seek is over $12,000.

When a lawsuit is filed in a Pennsylvania common pleas court, it usually is placed on the arbitration docket. Common pleas arbitration cases are less formal than general docket cases. Discovery is limited or does not occur, and your case usually is heard by a panel of arbiters. The panel generally is composed of three local attorneys.

How do I respond to CCP collection lawsuits?

Responding to a court of common pleas lawsuit is fairly complicated. The first step is deciding whether to file an answer or preliminary objections. Next decide if you wish to or if you even can conduct discovery. The final step is deciding how to approach mediation, arbitration, and trial.

Filing preliminary objections.

Preliminary objections are a type of pleading allowed by the Pennsylvania rules of civil procedure. Our debt defense attorney files preliminary objections when a complaint is legally deficient, either because it fails to meet the Pennsylvania rules of civil procedure, fails to state a claim for relief, or fails for another reason.

Filing an answer.

An answer is another pleading allowed by the Pennsylvania rules of civil procedure. In an answer, you either admit or deny the allegations contained in a debt collection complaint. A common mistake unrepresented parties make is making general denials. If you do this, your denials are treated as admissions.

Discovery.

Discovery is a fact finding process provided for by the Pennsylvania rules of civil procedure. Discovery usually does not occur in cases on the arbitration dockets or, if it does, is very restricted. That said, you still can request documents and information from a debt collector if you wish.

Attending collection mediation.

Some Pennsylvania common pleas courts have mediation programs for debt collection lawsuits. You can check your local rules, which should be on your local court website, to see if your common pleas court has a collection mediation program. These programs often are created for purposes of efficiency. If your court has a mediation program, and you fail to attend, then you likely will lose your case.

Attending arbitration.

If a case doesn’t end at preliminary objections, or if you file an answer, then your case likely will end at an arbitration hearing. Pennsylvania arbitration hearings are conducted before an arbitration panel, which usually is composed of three local attorneys. As explained below, debt collectors usually don’t bring witnesses to testify at arbitration hearings. Instead, debt collectors hire appearance attorneys to present whatever documents a debt collector may have.

Can I win CCP collection lawsuits?

"Most debt buyers, and some credit card companies, lack the documents required to win a debt collection lawsuit."

The first way our debt defense attorney wins CCP lawsuits is by filing preliminary objections (POs). We usually file POs when credit contracts, account statements, and assignments aren’t attached to a complaint, the complaint fails to state a claim, or the complaint is otherwise defective.

If it’s more prudent to answer a complaint and attend the arbitration hearing, we often defeat debt collectors in arbitration. Most debt collectors hire “appearance attorneys” to attend arbitration hearings. “Appearance attorneys” usually are local lawyers that are hired literally to “appear” at your hearing and present whatever documents a credit card company or debt buyer possess.

Our debt defense attorney often beats appearance attorneys because they can’t testify, don’t have knowledge about the account at issue or the documents they given, and are provided limited documentation. In our experience, most debt buyers, and some credit card companies, lack the documents required to win a debt collection lawsuit. Without documents and witnesses, your chance of success is high.

How do common pleas collection lawsuits end?

Debt collection lawsuits filed in the court of common pleas can end in many ways. Here are the various ways you can win or lose.

Winning through a non-pros.

A “non pros” refers to a failure to prosecute. You can win on a non-pros only if your case is a magistrate appeal. In this scenario, you appeal a magistrate judgment and the plaintiff fails to file a complaint. If you win this way, you technically still owe the debt, but the case against you is over.

Winning on preliminary objections.

When you win by filing preliminary objections, you often get a dismissal with prejudice. That means you don’t owe the debt and can’t get sued again. It also may mean the debt must be removed from your credit report either partially or fully.

Winning at arbitration.

When you win in arbitration, you will get an arbitration award in your favor. This is a merits based ruling. It means you don’t owe the debt and can’t get sued again. It also may mean the debt must be removed from your credit report either partially or fully.

If you lose...

If you lose on preliminary objections, you just have to attend the arbitration hearing. But, if you lost at the arbitration hearing, that means a judgment will be entered against you (unless you appeal). A judgment allows the debt collector to engage in more aggressive collection tactics, like garnishing bank accounts or seizing property.

Who files lawsuits in common pleas court?

There are many debt buyers, credit card companies, banks, finance companies, lawyers, and law firms that file collection lawsuits in Pennsylvania common pleas courts. Here’s a list of some of them:

Debt Buyers:

Banks and Credit Card Companies

Finance Companies

Lawyers and Law Firms:

  • Apothaker & Scian Lawsuits
  • Burton Neil & Associates Lawsuits
  • Daniel Santucci (Midland Funding)
  • Faloni & Associates Lawsuits
  • Hayt Hayt & Landau Lawsuits
  • Patenaude & Felix Lawsuits
  • Pressler Felt & Warshaw Lawsuits
  • Ratchford Law Group Lawsuits
  • Tsarouhis Law Group Lawsuits
  • Weltman Weinberg & Reis Lawsuits

Hire BCJ Law to help!

If you’re getting sued for a debt in a Pennsylvania common pleas court, please contact BCJ Law to see if we can help. We may be able to win your case or get it dismissed. You won’t owe us fees unless we win. Please fill out our contact form or call us at 1-800-997-5561.

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