New York, NY asked in Consumer Law and Collections for Pennsylvania

Q: My wife received an oral deposition notice from a law firm via certified mail looking to collect a +10 year old debt

My wife received an oral deposition saying that she is to appear and testify "in aid of execution concerning all of her income, assets and property, including personal property, which may be subject to execution in satisfaction of the judgment obtained by Plaintiff against [her] in the above-captioned case..." She is to appear at a hotel on May 18, 2023. The docket number is 2013No00042031 (i can't find this case). Further into the notice it says that a judgment was entered against her and the bank is conducting proceedings to discover her assets. This debt is at least 10 years old, there is no record of an account with this bank on her credit report, and she has never been to court regarding the debt, so how could there be a judgment? The very last page lists an "offer" in which they would be willing to take installments as an alternative to her appearance. It ends with the statement saying they are a debt collector. What can she do about this?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Daniel Edward Mueller
Daniel Edward Mueller
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Licensed in Pennsylvania

A: It is possible that a creditor sued your wife on a debt, and, for whatever reason, she was never properly served. This might happen, for example, if the creditor cannot find the defendant and obtains permission for alternate service by mail or publication. If there is no response, the creditor might obtain a default judgment. (Note that depending on the court, older cases can be challenging to find on the docket. You may want to call the court clerk or prothonotary for help locating it.)

Generally, once a creditor has a judgment in Pennsylvania, it has twenty years to collect against the debtor's personal property. The judgment also becomes a lien on the debtor's real property. (Although judgments may fall off credit reports after seven years, it does not affect collectability.)

Your wife should speak to a debtor defense attorney right away. If she was never served, it may be possible to reopen the judgment and raise any defenses she would have had. (However, ten years is a long time.) In the alternative, an attorney may be able to help her protect her assets and settle the matter.

The other possibility is that it is a scam. There are several scams going around where the scammer impersonates a lawyer, law firm, court, or law enforcement. However, you may wish to seek counsel either way. Certainly, do not deal directly with the sender unless you are sure you are dealing with a legitimate law firm.

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