You know what it is like to be pursued by a collection agency if collectors call you constantly or you have received a summons and Complaint. You are not alone, which is a comforting thought. Researchers at the Urban Institute estimate that one in three Americans has at least one debt in collection. It is our pleasure to assist people like you every day. It is for this reason that we created this guide.
Getting a debt collector off your back in Hawaii can be difficult, but knowing your rights is crucial. Responding to a Summons and Complaint will stop collectors from calling you if you’ve received a Summons and Complaint. This article explains how to react efficiently to a Hawaii debt collection lawsuit.
Answering a summons for debt collection in Hawaii
According to Hawaii Civil Code Rule 12(a)(1), you have 20 days to file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint. According to the rule:
A defendant shall serve an answer within 20 days after being served with the Summons and Complaint, except when service is made under Rule 4(c) and a different time is prescribed in an order of the court under a statute or rule of court.
You must file an Answer with the court and the plaintiff within this time period. There may be a feeling of dread in your mind. Twenty days does not seem like an extended period. It is not, but we have you covered.
I want to begin with the bad news. You will automatically lose if you fail to respond to the Summons and Complaint within 20 days. As a result, the plaintiff will file for a default judgment against you. Accordingly, you must pay the amount listed on the Complaint.
In addition to a default judgment, the plaintiff may have other options to recover their money. You can be garnished, your property can be burdened with liens, or even your bank account can be frozen. That is why it is so important to respond within the deadline.
This could result in severe problems if there is an error in the debt amount or the debt is not yours. In any case, as long as you thoroughly review and respond to any complaint within 20 days, you are in good standing.
Forms for Hawaii Answers to Summons
You may use Hawaii’s civil forms. There is a question we receive frequently: does an Answer to a Summons need to be notarized? No, the answer is not. However, you should take specific steps when mailing it, which we will discuss in the following paragraphs.
Many forms are available on Hawaii’s judicial branch website, but no form is available for an Answer. You may visit the courthouse or contact the court clerk to see if they have any in-person that you can pick up.
Answers are not subject to a fee in Hawaii
It’s good news! There is no fee for filing an Answer to a Complaint against you in Hawaii. However, you may have to pay filing fees if you intend to file other documents with your lawsuit.
For example, if you plan to file a counterclaim in District Court, there is a filing fee of $65 per counterclaim.
Hawaii debt collection case response steps
The first step your creditor or debt collector takes when filing a debt collection lawsuit in Hawaii small claims court is to serve you with a Summons and Complaint. The Summons informs you of the case and the parties involved, while the Complaint lists the specific allegations against you.
These documents should be delivered to you in person or by mail. Please do not delay in responding when you receive them. It is important to remember that you have 20 days to file an Answer. The creditor or debt collector may enter a default judgment if you do not comply, and you may be required to pay them for any debt they claim you owe.
Let’s move on to the most critical part (don’t worry, it’s pretty simple). To respond to a Hawaii debt collection case, follow these three steps:
- Respond to each allegation in the Complaint.
- Make affirmative defenses.
- Serve the plaintiff with your Answer.
- Respond to each allegation in the Complaint.
Answers are simply responses to accusations made against you in the Complaint document. The Complaint contains many numbered paragraphs, each containing an allegation against you. It can be overwhelming and confusing to read this section. However, it doesn’t have to be; follow these guidelines.
The first section of your Answer to a debt lawsuit should include a list of responses to each allegation in the Complaint. Responses to each claim can be made in three ways:
- Admit—like saying, “This is true.”
- Deny—like saying, “Prove it.”
- Deny due to lack of knowledge—like saying, “I don’t know.”
What is the best strategy for you? It would help if you were truthful when responding to a complaint. Despite this, you may need clarification about whether some of the allegations against you are true or false. There is nothing abnormal about this. You can either say that you lack the necessary knowledge or deny the claim if you are unsure.
No matter how you respond to an allegation, whether you deny it or state that you are uncertain, the plaintiff must prove these allegations in court. Most attorneys recommend denying as many allegations as possible. In this way, you will be able to present the most robust case possible since denying a claim transfers the burden of proof to the plaintiff.
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Your answers aren’t set in stone; you can amend them anytime, even after the case begins.
Make affirmative defenses
Your Answer should include affirmative defenses, which is why the collection agency should lose. Some affirmative defenses may apply to your case, but not all.
In debt collection cases, the following affirmative defenses are commonly used:
- Debt amount is incorrect: It is possible to use this affirmative defense if the creditor incorrectly calculates how much you owe. Using this defense would be appropriate, for instance, if you paid part of the debt, but it was not reflected in the Summons and Complaint.
- The creditor canceled your contract, and you do not owe them any debt: If the creditor charges you for debt accrued after you canceled the contract, use this defense.
- The summons and Complaint were improperly served: You should have personally received your summons and Complaint at your home. By Hawaii Civil Code Rule 4(d)(1), the summons and Complaint must be served together and in person. If absent, you can leave a copy with a family member or friend in your home.
- Statute of limitations expired: In Hawaii, the statute of limitations on debt collection is six years from the date of your last payment. A debt that is older than this cannot be brought to court.
- Affirmative defenses for identity theft or mistaken identity: You may use two identity issues as affirmative defenses. Firstly, a creditor may sue you for a debt that does not belong to you, and secondly, identity theft may occur. If the debt in question is from a credit card you never applied for, never received, or never used, you may use identity theft as an affirmative defense. It is possible that your card was stolen and used without your authorization in this scenario.
- Lack of standing due to a lack of debtor-creditor relationship: This affirmative defense may be used if your original creditor sold off your debt to a collection agency and then filed the lawsuit on your behalf. If this is the case, the debt collector must provide proof that they purchased your debt from your original creditor, along with all appropriate documentation.
Your case will be strengthened if you assert your affirmative defenses. It may take some time to complete this portion of your Answer, but it will benefit you as you proceed with the case in Hawaii small claims court. If you want your affirmative defenses to be considered in the case, you must assert them in your initial response.
Here’s an example:
For example, Polly received a lawsuit letter from Aargon Collection Agency, Honolulu. According to the debt collectors, she owed $3,400 on an unpaid debt for three years. Polly recalls having a deficit with Aloha Credit Union (ACU) but canceled the credit card after spending $950. She stated two affirmative defenses in her answer document; she canceled the credit card with ACU two years ago and did not owe the entire $3,400 balance. Second, the debt amount quoted needs to be corrected. As a result of the two affirmative defenses, Polly has a strong case.
Answer the plaintiff as soon as possible
Your Answer must be filed once it has been completed. You could face a default judgment if you fail to file the Answer in time. Would you like to have peace of mind during this process?
To file your Answer correctly, you should:
- You should make two copies of your Answer document.
- Copy #1 should be mailed to the Hawaii court.
- Copy #2 should be mailed to the plaintiff’s attorney.
Make sure you have the correct mailing address for the court on your Summons and Complaint before mailing your copy. Both copies should be sent by USPS Certified Mail, and a confirmation receipt should be requested to ensure that your Answer has been properly delivered.
Once you receive the receipt, make copies of everything, including your Answer document. A copy should be kept on your phone if there is a problem and you require proof of receipt.
Hawaii’s statute of limitations on debt
Hawaii has a six-year statute of limitations on debt collection. A person cannot sue you for an account that has been inactive for six years or more. The term “inactive account” refers to an account that has not been paid. Payments on an old debt will restart the statute of limitations if you start making payments again. Before making any payments to your creditor or debt collector, always check the statute of limitations on the debt.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that an expired statute of limitations will not prevent a creditor or debt collector from suing you; they may attempt to take you to court and hope you are unaware of the debt deadline. As a result, if the statute of limitations applies to your case, you should use it as an affirmative defense. The only way to avoid being forced to pay the debt is to avoid being sued.
Respond to a lawsuit filed in Hawaii Small Claims Court
In Hawaii, most debt collection cases can be filed in small claims court. The Hawaii Small Claims Court is a division of the District Court that has jurisdiction over certain disputes involving two or more parties.
The Small Claims Court is likely to have handled your case if it involves $5,000 or less. It is possible to respond to a Small Claims case by following the steps described earlier in this article:
- Respond to each allegation contained in the Complaint.
- Assert your affirmative defenses.
- File your Answer before the deadline.
Legal aid organizations in Hawaii can assist you
Like all other U.S. states, the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii provides free legal services through government funding. The following information can be used to get in touch with them about their service:
Hawaii Legal Aid Society (Main Branch)
Bethel Street, 924.
96813 Honolulu, Hawaii
808-536-4302 (Oahu number)
800-499-4302 (Other Islands)
Locations of Hawaii’s state courts
There are times when the location of your court needs to be clarified from the summons. We have linked to one here to provide you with a list of Hawaii state courts. Using this information, you can locate the Hawaii small claims court where your case is filed. Remember, though, that the mailing address sometimes differs from the physical address.
What you need to know
You have learned how to handle a Summons and Complaint in Hawaii properly. The following is a summary of what you have learned:
- Answers must be filed within 20 days
- Hawaii does not charge a fee for filing an Answer to a debt lawsuit.
- To submit your Answer, please follow these steps:
- Respond to each allegation in the Complaint
- Make affirmative defenses.
- Serve the plaintiff with your Answer.
- Hawaii has a six-year statute of limitations on debts.
- Small claims courts in Hawaii handle cases valued at less than $5,000.