Hi Bill, I suffered an injury in 2001 that left me permanently disabled. my car was repoed in 2002. now i find out that the lending institution has filed suit 6 years since i let the car go back, and in another state (Georgia, I live in Florida now) what are my options?
The first thing that you need to do is to contact an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia who can explain your rights in this situation and assist you in responding to the lawsuit that has been filed against you. The primary question that will arise is whether or not the statute of limitations, or the amount of time that a creditor has to sue you on a delinquent account, has expired. When a vehicle is repossessed, the vehicle is generally sold at auction, and the amount received at the auction is subtracted from the balance of your debt. If there is any amount left on your balance after the amount received from the auction is subtracted, the remaining debt is referred to as a deficiency balance. You will need to discuss with your attorney Georgia's laws regarding the collection of deficiency balances. In most states, a creditor is allowed to sue the previous owner for any deficiency balance on a repossessed vehicle, but the lawsuit must be filed within a certain period of time, called the statute of limitations. In Georgia, I believe that the statute of limitations for this type of debt is six years from the date of default, though you will need to confirm this and discuss the details with your attorney to determine the best way to respond to this lawsuit. For more information about statutes of limitations, I encourage you to visit BCSAlliance.com.
From the information in your question, I assume that you lived in Georgia at the time of the repossession, but that you have since moved to Florida. If you lived in Georgia at the time you purchased the vehicle, or at the time the car was repossessed, the creditor is probably correct in filing the lawsuit against you in Georgia. Generally speaking, if a person moves to another state after signing a contract, the creditor can choose to file the lawsuit either in the state in which the contract was signed, or in the state of the debtor's current residence. Again, you need to consult with an attorney in Georgia to discuss the jurisdictional issues of your case. You should keep in mind that a judgment obtained in one state is not automatically enforceable in another state. If the creditor obtains a judgment against you in Georgia, it would need to file a motion in the county court of the Florida county where you live to "domesticate" its Georgia judgment. Unless you can show that the judgment was entered in error, or that the Georgia court which issued the judgment did not have the appropriate jurisdiction, it is likely that the Florida court will domesticate the Georgia judgment, allowing the creditor to enforce its judgment in Florida.
Since you are disabled and live in Florida, it is likely that enforcing a judgment against you will be quite difficult. The most common methods used to enforce judgments are wage garnishments, bank account levies, and property liens. Assuming that your income is primarily from disability payments, which are generally exempt from garnishment, a wage garnishment should not be a problem for you. Disability payments also tend to retain their exempt status after being deposited into a bank account, so your bank account should also be protected from your creditors, as long of you do not co-mingle your exempt disability payments with income from other sources, which could make proving the funds exempt much more difficult. If the creditor obtains a judgment against you, you may want to tell your bank that the only funds being deposited into your account are exempt disability payments, which could prevent your bank from freezing your account if the bank is served with a levy notice. If you own a home, it should also be protected from your creditors, as Florida offers a 100% exemption on a property used as a primary residence. Hopefully, these protections will prevent this creditor from causing you significant problems, even if it obtains and domesticates a judgment against you. I encourage you to discuss this situation with your attorney to determine the best way to protect your funds and property. For more information about property exemptions from judgment creditors and when filing bankruptcy, I encourage you to visit BCSAlliance.com.
Again, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney licensed in Georgia who can assist you in responding to the lawsuit which has been filed against you. An attorney should also be able to explain your rights in this situation, and explain the protections offered to you under Florida and Georgia law. I wish you the best of luck in resolving this debt, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.