Whenever someone has been sued by a debt collector, they will be served with the complaint. In the Magistrate system, this is typically sent out by the Magistrate via certified mail. In the Court of Common Pleas, it is typically served in person. The complaint and accompanying paperwork typically breaks down many things, includes fees associated with filing the complaint itself. This can often be confusing for someone who has never dealt with legal documents before, especially those that are initiating a lawsuit.
This filing fee is paid by the Plaintiff as they file the complaint. To initiate an action in the court, the Plaintiff must first file the complaint. Depending on the county and court, this filing incurs a fee that can be hundreds of dollars. It is listed, however, because a Defendant could become responsible for this fee depending on the outcome of the case.
When Would a Defendant Be Responsible for This Fee?
In the Magistrate, the filing fee is automatically applied to the amount of the judgment if the Defendant loses the case. For example, if a Defendant is being sued for $1,000 and a filing fee of $150 is listed, the resulting judgment would be for $1,150. With a typical debt collector, you can usually negotiate this fee away even after a loss but they don’t have to. This fee basically becomes part of the debt with a judgment behind it that makes it easier to collect. Things are a bit different in the Court of Common Pleas though.
Filing fees and costs are not automatically applied to a judgment in the Court of Common Pleas like they are in the Magistrate. This does not mean they will not be added though. The Plaintiff can and often does request both costs and attorney’s fees as part of the Complaint they file. The Court has discretion to award or not award these fees in addition to the base claim.
When Would I Not Be Liable for the Filing Fee?
Put simply, if you win the case, you are not liable for the fee or costs. The Plaintiff cannot demand to be reimbursed for an unsuccessful lawsuit and it is a risk they assume when filing the suit. Additionally, a filing fee for the complaint is never the Defendant’s responsibility at any point in the case until it concludes and is awarded as part of the judgment.
Additionally, you are not liable for the fees and costs if you settle unless that is part of the settlement agreement itself. If a debt collector comes back after you for fees and costs after you have settled a debt, then they may be violating the terms of the agreement and violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act(“FDCPA”) in the process. If you believe you are a victim of a debt collector’s illegal debt collection tactics, you may be able to bring a suit against them without any out of pocket expenses on your part. FDCPA claims typically involve statutory damages that award the Debtor/Plaintiff up to $1,000 plus damages, if any. If you believe you are at this stage and you want to sue a debt collector, give us a call and we can assist.
Generally, the filing fee is only something you need to worry about if the case results in a judgment against you. If you are settling, you should be seeking to negotiate this fee out of the equation. If you win the lawsuit, it isn’t something you have to worry about at all. We fight against many debt collectors at Starks Law and we win lawsuits brought by debt collectors on a regular basis. If you are interested in speaking to us about defending against a debt collection lawsuit, give us a call today or send us a message. We offer free, no obligation telephone consultations every day of the work week.