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Friday, September 28, 2007
Cohen and Slamowitz attorneys at law.
Name: Stacey

Subject: Should I respond to letter?

Question: First off, let me say that I apologize for the length of this question but I really need to make sense of this letter I received.

Last year I received a letter from an attorney’s office named Cohen & Slamowitz(C&S) stating that I owed a debt of $6k to a collection company, Midland Credit Management. The original creditor was listed as Aspire Visa. I checked my reports and found this item on them. Being that this was not my account, I sent a letter to C&S requesting validation of this debt. Two weeks later I was served a summons from them. I answered the summons via register mail requesting validation but never heard from them again.

I needed this item removed from my report as I was seeking new employment and this was really hurting my prospects because I work in financial services. I sent certified letters to Midland Credit Management four times and never heard from them.

In May of this year I wrote to Aspire Visa, the original creditor listed. They sent me a letter saying they could not validate the debt and would ask for removal from my reports. They said it would take up to 90 days. I waited and checked again and it was still on there.

I finally sent Midland the Aspire Visa letter and attached a letter stating that I would commence legal recourse if this item were not removed. I didn’t hear anything back so I called them and was transferred over to C&S’s office. When I stated what this was about they hung up on me.

I called Midland again and spoke with the legal department and they told me to fax them the stuff that I had mailed and they would take care of it.

So now I get a letter from C&S that reads:

“Please be advised that our client has directed us to close the above matter in our office. Thus, enclosed please find (3) stipulations discontinuing action in connection with the above referenced matter. Kindly return all three executed stipulations to this office so that we may file one with the court and return one fully executed original to you for our records.”

It is signed by a paralegal.

The paper they want me to sign has the courts name and my name as defendant with Midland Funding LLC the plaintiff. It reads: STIPULATION DISCONTINUING ACTION, and the following:

“It is hereby stipulated and agreed by and between the undersigned, the attorneys of record for all parties to the above entitled action, that whereas no party hereto is an infant or incompetent person for whom a committee has been appointed and no person not a party has an interest in the subject matter of the action, the above entitled action be, and the same hereby is discontinued without costs to either party as against the other. This stipulation may be filed without firther notice with the clerk of the court. A facsimile signature shall be deemed an original for purposes of filing this stipulation with the court.”

Below is a place for them to sign and for me to sign and date.

My questions are: Do I need to sign this? It sounds like they are agreeing not to pursue this as long as I don’t taking any action against them. Why do you suppose they did not sign it first? If I don’t sign it will they still remove it from my reports?

Any help you can give me will be greatly and sincerely appreciated. Thank you.

Answer: You say that you answered their summons with a certified mail letter. That is most definitely not the way to answer a summons. Your answer must be properly prepared and filed with the court at the county clerk's office in your county where the lawsuit was filed. If you did not do that then you have not properly answered the complaint. So the first step you must now take is to go to the county clerk's office and ask to see your public record there. Once you have that up on their computer screen you then look for any and all judgments that have been filed. Once you have located the case you write down the case number and tell the clerk you want to see the paperwork in that file. Then you willl want copies of all the papers in the file and that will probably cost you about 25 cents per page. You don't need court certified copies and those are more expensive anyway. You won't need a copy of the summons because you already have that and it won't tell you much in any case. Not worth paying for in most cases. Next thing is to analyze the papers to see what has transpired in the case. That can be a bit tricky if you don't have the experience to do that. So if you want you can call me at 405-616-7901 and I'll be glad to analyze them for you and tell you where you are in the case and maybe give you some ideas as to how to proceed. I can't give you legal advice because I'm not an attorney but I have looked over hundreds of cases through the years so I do have the experience to do it. I may need you to fax or scan and email them to me and I will give you my opinion as to where you are in the case without any cost or obligation to you. It is really no big deal. Once you know where you stand in the situation you will then know how to proceed. I woould also want you to fax or email me a copy of the stipulation letter they want you to sign. I can tell you right now that in most cases I would advise you not to sign any stipulation letter because doing so may turn out to be an agreement to a stipulated judgment against you and that would be very bad for you indeed. Attorneys like to use that dirty trick if they think they can get away with it and there is no need for you to stipulate to anything in order for them to have the case dismissed with prejudice so this sounds like another dirty trick by Cohen & Slamowitz and they are well known for their dirty tricks.

This particular stipulation seems to be OK from the wording you have provided but I tend to think that in order to be safe, a better way might be to file a motion to dismiss their case with the court and use that document they sent you as your reason to demand that the case be dismissed with prejudice. In my personal opinion that would be a much safer way to go about it as opposed to signing a stipulation to anything. A copy of that document with their letterhead on it should convince the court to grant your motion to dismiss with prejudice. They should have no objection to your motion to dismiss but in the event they file an objection you would have at least smoked out the fact that they had a dirty trick up their sleeve and you can proceed from there to do whatever is necessary. I'll be glad to consult with you about this for free but I must have copies of all the paperwork in the case from the court house to be sure that I am telling you the right thing to do. Just go to the courthouse and look up your public record and call me at 405-616-7901 anytime, evenings, Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays, whenever.
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