New Massachusetts Rules Regarding Credit Card Collection Lawsuits

If you have unpaid credit card debt, you might face a collection lawsuit at some point. Learn what the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure require in these types of suits.

Certain abuses commonly arise in debt collection cases, like poorly documented debts, lawsuits started after the statute of limitations has passed, and lack of notice to defendants. In Massachusetts, two new rules of civil procedure, which went into effect January 1, 2019, address these abuses.

Specifically, Rule 8.1 of the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure establishes new evidentiary requirements regarding suits that seek to collect debt that arises out of certain revolving credit agreements (like credit card debt), and Rule 55.1 prevents plaintiffs from getting default judgments if they don’t comply with the requirements of Rule 8.1.

Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 8.1

As January 1, 2019, Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 8.1 requires the plaintiff (the party filing the collection suit) to file the following documents along with the complaint (the document that starts the suit):

  • a detailed affidavit providing specific information about the debt, like the name of the original creditor, the name of the current debt owner, the date of the last payment, and the chain of ownership from the original creditor to the current owner of the debt; and
  • an affidavit providing documentation of the debt, including legible copies of documents establishing the existence, amount, terms and conditions applicable to the debt, as well as each bill of sale, assignment, or other document showing the transfer of ownership
    of the debt, starting with the original creditor and including a specific reference to the defendant or the defendant’s account number.

The plaintiff must also verify the defendant’s address before starting the suit (to ensure the defendant gets all required information about the debt and gets notice about the action), and certify that the statute of limitations has not expired. (Learn how creditor lawsuits work.)

Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 55.1

To get a default judgment (an automatic win for the plaintiff when the defendant doesn't respond to the suit), new Rule 55.1 requires the plaintiff's attorney to file an affidavit stating that:

  • the attorney has personally reviewed the case
  • the case meets the requirements of Rule 8.1, and
  • the plaintiff is entitled to a judgment in the amount claimed.

If the defendant is served notice of the suit through the mail, the attorney must also file an affidavit that it has re-verified the defendant’s address within the three months before asking for a default judgment.

Get More Information

To get details about the requirements under Rule 8.1 and Rule 55.1, along with information about other debt collection laws in Massachusetts, see Debt Collection Laws in Massachusetts.

If you’re facing a collection lawsuit in Massachusetts and you think the plaintiff has failed to meet the requirements discussed above, consider talking to a lawyer. A lawyer can advise you if you have any defenses to the action and tell you about options in your specific circumstances.

Effective date: January 1, 2019