Commercial Litigation/Collections
Bankruptcy, Debtor/Creditor Law
Business Law
Personal Injury
Insurance Disputes
Fire Loss
Real Estate
Family Law/Divorce
Wills & Estates
D.U.I Defense

COMMERCIAL LITIGATION /COLLECTIONS

 

 

Our collections department is an integral part of our litigation branch. It is not a “poor relation housed in the attic.” The whole firm is active in it.  Although by no means is our practice limited to collections. We believe a blend of practice maintains our active community contacts and cross-pollenizes our legal skills.

The firm was recently recognized by the Law League of America for a half century of membership, a standard which we envision will be held for generations to come.

All our debtor contact is done either by attorneys or by fully qualified legal personnel carefully trained to pick up signs of collectibility of what may become a legal case. We consider this a legal service and undertake it carefully and professionally. Others may harass the debtor - our aim is to collect.

All of our personnel are fully versed with all aspects of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act as well as the Fair Credit Reporting Act which we always strive to be in full compliance. All personnel are regularly updated at office meetings as well as in-house seminars as to any new procedures in addition to reviewing the old.

All debtors are treated firmly but with the utmost courtesy. Collectors are instructed not to engage in arguments or debates with the debtor, but rather to refer all conflicts and confrontations to one of the attorneys. Generally, Collectors make initial contact with the debtor via mail. Within ten days, the Collector will follow-up on the demand letter with a telephone call. Perhaps the most important aspect of the job of Collector is to locate the debtor. Our Collectors are thoroughly skilled at utilizing our various resources in tracking down a person, all within ethical guidelines. Our Collectors have learned through training and experience how to size up an account and predict its collectibility.  This is based upon their direct and indirect communication with the debtor, the evasiveness, their standing in the community not to mention our past experience of collecting other bills from the same debtor.

We have served Northeastern Pennsylvania for nearly a century. We believe we know our multi-county diverse area as well as anyone. It ranges from economically devastated farm areas to hard coal towns to the burgeoning Pocono region. This may be a tall order for a commercial practice but is handled from our office in Scranton.

 

District Justice Court

For claims involving $8000 or less the simplest way to get a judgment is to sue in the District Justice Court .

This court was formally known as the District Magistrate Court , Small Claims Court as well as the Justice of the Peace.  

The advantages are many. The cost is generally around $750.00 - $1,500.00. Service can be made by certified mail however Constable service is required, at an additional cost, if Defendant cannot be served by mail. A hearing can occur within 30 days and (sometimes as soon as 2 weeks) and if the Defendant ignores the process, (which is often) a judgment will be entered without the need for a witness to come to testify. The hearings are not transcribed in any manner and any appeal from it would be “de novo” without preference given to lower court rulings. Even if you have an adverse ruling an appeal can be filed for approximately $100.00. As a result many creditors chose to simply file the appeal rather than incur the costs of sending a witness. It is by far the quickest and simplest way to get a judgment.

There are however, some disadvantages. As a rule there is no pretrial discovery. The judgment limit is $8000.00 and a District Justice is not required to be a lawyer, although many are. Consequently in some District Justice Courts rules of evidence and procedure may be somewhat lax. Continuances are relatively easy to get if requested timely.

 

Arbitration Panel

Appeals from District Justice Court usually go before an Arbitration Panel. Depending on the County in which the claim arises. Arbitration Panels will also hear smaller case directly filed with the Court of Common Pleas. These cases generally range between $8,000.00 and $50,000.00. Pleadings are far more formal and the pleading phase of a case can get bogged down on technicalities. Arbitration panels usually consist of 3 attorneys hearing a case on its merits deciding the outcome by consensus. The chairman of the attorney panel is generally the attorney with the most seniority and the rules of evidence and procedures while often not strictly enforced are supposed to be observed.

The disadvantages to Arbitration are many. First of all significant delays in getting to trial can occur. The discovery process alone can delay certain cases well in excess of a year of more. A trial date is only set with the concurrence of counsel or by court order. Once a trial date is set, continuances are common and easy to obtain depending on the court and the timeliness of the request.

Often the identity of arbitrating is not known until the time of trial and their decisions are hard to predict. As arbitrator compensation is relatively low may arbitrators often lack the legal knowledge and experience of the high priced seasoned veterans of the law. As a result many times an Arbitrators decision will be a “compromise” – preferring to give some benefit of the doubt to both sides of a dispute.

Perhaps most frustrating is the fact that arbitrators do not render an opinion. They merely enter a decision leaving the litigants guessing as to why the case was decided. As with District Justice cases, arbitrations are generally not transcribed and appeals from them are “de novo”. It is not uncommon for arbitration cases to be settled on the eve of trial or even in the courthouse hallway awaiting the case to be called. For these reasons witnesses should be readily available to contact as should someone with complete authority to settle.

Unlike a District Justice hearing even it a Defendant does not show up, the Plaintiff still has the burden of proving their case (a formality sometimes ignored) thus a witness is still required unless the Plaintiff officially consents to the entry of a Judgment. Usually the arbitration takes about an hour. Rarely do they last more than 3 hours. However, it is not uncommon to have to wait longer than 1 hour for the case to be called.

 

Court of Common Pleas

Appeals from arbitration and larger civil case are heard by the Court of Common Pleas. Each county has their own rules on the jurisdiction limits of Common Pleas Court but most county’s rules provide that cases larger than $30,000.00 - $50,000.00 are heard by a Common Pleas Judge.

Common Pleas Judges are required to be licensed attorneys and are elected officials. Once elected into office they are not subject to “re election” in any contested elections but rather run for “retention”.

The Pleading Phase and Discovery Phase is the same as in Arbitrations.

If the case is an appeal from an  arbitration these phases are not repeated although additional discovery and further pretrial motions are possible.

Rules of Procedure and Evidence are strictly enforced, depending on the Judge and many counties have their own pretrial procedures.

Summary, Judgment motions are rarely granted and usually results in longer delays rather than expedited decisions. Video or telephonic testimony is generally not allowed nor is the use of sworn affidavits unless by consent of the parties.

 

 

 

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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