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.
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):
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.)
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:
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.
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