Capitol Heights, MD asked in Consumer Law, Collections and Elder Law for Maryland

Q: A debt collector is attempting to collect a debt over 15 yo from my elderly parents who are MD. Is that possible?

By the way, I read that a debt collector per the State of MD cannot collect on a debt that is more than 3 years old. The debt is over $2,000 but they (Lake City Credit) will settle for $300.

1 Lawyer Answer
Mark Oakley
Mark Oakley
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Rockville, MD
  • Licensed in Maryland

A: The statute of limitations for debts is 3 years, meaning a lawsuit must be filed within 3 years of the debt becoming due, or the debtor can move to dismiss the court action as beyond the statute (limitations is an "affirmative defense" that must be raised by the defendant or it is waived). However, the SOL is longer for certain types of debts and in certain circumstances. Promissory Notes under the Commercial Code have a 6 year SOL, and contracts to pay money that are signed "under seal" (the word "seal" is printed next to the signature line) have a 12 year SOL, as do all promissory notes that secure a debt against real property (mortgages, etc.). If an action is timely filed in court before expiration of the SOL, limitations is satisfied, and trial and judgment can occur at any time thereafter. Once judgment is entered, the judgment is valid for 12 years, after which it expires and can no longer be enforced; however, the judgment can be renewed for another 12 years if the creditor requests renewal before the first 12 year term expires.

Therefore, in order to answer your question, we would need to know (1) what SOL applies to the particular debt; (2) whether suit was ever filed in court; (3) whether a judgment was ever entered on the debt, and against whom was it entered.

You can determine whether suit was ever filed against either of your parents by running their names in the Maryland Judiciary Case Search online docket system (Google it). Any lawsuit, and any judgment entered, would appear there. Even a judgment entered out of state, in order to be enforced in Maryland, would have to be recorded in Maryland before it could be collected. If there is no suit filed naming your parents for this debt, ignore the creditor, as it sounds like a scam, and any SOL that would have been applicable would have expired long ago.

Leonard A Englander agrees with this answer

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