Harrogate, TN asked in Collections for Tennessee

Q: This is 2013. Do I have to pay for a credit card account that was closed over 6 years ago? (Statute of Limitations?)

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1 Lawyer Answer
  • Collections Lawyer
  • Cary, NC

A: Do you "have" to pay? No law says that you do. Whether you wish to pay (i.e. a moral duty of some kind) or have a legal duty to pay is a different issue.

The statute of limitations is a tricky thing and you should consult an attorney licensed in your state. Different states and even different creditors have different statute of limitations. Where was the credit card issued? Do you still live in the same place? What does the credit card agreement say, if anything? The statute of limitations generally runs from the date of the last payment of any kind made on the account. Has it really been 6 years? The answers may dictate what you do next.

Assuming that collection of the debt is indeed barred by the statute of limitations, know that the statute is a defense that only applies in court and only applies if you are sued and timely raise it in an answer filed with the court. It does not mean that you do not owe the debt anymore or that the debt collector cannot keep asking you to pay in collection letters. That does not mean that you have to pay it because payment will revive the statute of limitations.

If you think that the statute has indeed expired, see a lawyer in your state who specializes in credit card defense and pay for a 30-60 minute consult. Confirm what the limitations period is and that the statute has truly expired. If so, then you can send the debt collector a cease and desist letter and advise them not to bother you any more about the debt because the statute of limitations has expired. It will be unlikely that they will sue after that but if you are sued, then you need to get a lawyer immediately who can assert the statute of limitations defense in an answer.

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