What happens if I am sued for a debt in district court?
If you are sued for a debt in district court, the creditor is the Plaintiff and you are the Defendant.
Summons and Complaint - what to expect
The first step in the process is that you will be served with a summons and compliant. The summons and complaint will be delivered to or "served on" you. This is usually done by a deputy sheriff.
These documents will give you important information:
- The address of the court,
- The name of the creditor that is suing you (called the Plaintiff), and
- The claims or 'allegations' about why you owe them money.
What can I do if I am served with a summons and complaint for a debt in Maine District Court?
When you are sued in District Court, you must file a written answer within 20 days of the day the Complaint and Summons are delivered to you. If you do not file a written answer within 20 days, you will likely lose the case by default.
Try to get a lawyer’s advice if you are sued for a debt in District Court. This is very important if you believe that you don’t owe some or all of the money or have other legal defenses. You can contact Pine Tree – we may be able to help in these cases.
How is this different from small claims court?
If your case reaches a court hearing, the procedures will be similar to Small Claims court. But the hearing is more formal. The court will follow the standard rules of procedure and evidence.
How do I file my answer?
You must complete the form answer that is attached to the complaint and file it with the court within 20 days.
You can also find the form answer here.
Why do I need to file an answer? What will happen if I don't?
If you do not file an Answer with the Court within 20 days, the Court may automatically decide you owe the debt. They can decide you owe all the money the plaintiff is asking for - whether you actually owe it or not. But filing an answer will prevent this 'default judgment' from happening!
How do I fill out and "file" the answer?
Filling out the Answer form
First, fill out the District Court location and the parties names at the top of the form. The Plaintiff is the creditor - the company or person who claims you owe them money. You are the Defendant.
Next, check the box next to the statement:
I am the defendant in this case. I believe there are good reasons a judgment should not be entered against me on some or all of the claims raised by the plaintiff. I deny at least some of the plaintiff’s statements in the complaint. I assert all affirmative defenses that apply to my case.
By checking this box, you are telling the court that you may have a defense to the case. This could be that you do not owe the debt, or the amount is wrong, or some other reason.
Finally, make sure to sign the form and fill out all the other sections at the bottom of the form (printed name, mailing address, email address, phone number).
"Filing" your answer
Once you complete the Answer form, you must mail it to the Court at the location listed in the Summons served with the Complaint. Or you can deliver it to the clerk of that court. You must also mail a copy to the Plaintiff’s attorney and remember to keep a copy for yourself.
You may want to include with your Answer a "Notification of Discovery Service." This is a legal process for getting answers to the questions you have, like:
- Do I really owe the amount they say I owe?
- How did the Plaintiff become the owner of my debt? Do they have “standing” to sue me?
You may want to use our Sample Discovery Request. The Plaintiff must respond to your requests in writing before the court hears the case. This may help you to better understand the details and your possible legal defenses.