On Friday, May 30th, I tried another collection lawsuit against Midland Funding – this time in Baldwin County, at the Fairhope Courthouse. For those who aren’t familiar with Alabama’s largest county, Baldwin County actually has three separate courthouses. The main one in Bay Minette is at the northern end of the County, and for people who live down at the beach, the county seat is over 60 miles away. That’s a 1.5 hour trip for people living in Fort Morgan. So a few years back, the county opened a satellite courthouse in Foley for the beach folks, and a satellite courthouse in Fairhope for those who live in the more heavily populated Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.
This case was about an old computer purchase. They claimed that my client bought a Dell computer from a company called WebBank, who was at the time in charge of financing options for Dell computer sales. Dell Financial Services was the “servicer” of the loans. And WebBank at some point sold the account to Asset Acceptance, who sold it to Midland Funding, who then sued my client for $1900 plus court costs.
Midland actually took the case seriously: about a month before trial, they subpoena’d my client to appear in court. This is something they don’t do unless there’s an attorney involved. If you answer pro se, they’ll expect you to appear on your own. Some lawyers instruct their clients to answer pro se and then the lawyer appears on the day of court to ‘ambush’ the collector, and that’s fine, as long as no “ghostwriter” pleadings are involved, but I’ve found that isn’t even necessary. Now, sometimes a client really does call me the day before a trial and I’ll appear for them, but I prefer to let the collector know that I’m coming from a long way away. It usually doesn’t affect the end result.
When they send you a subpoena, it just means that you have to show up and testify. The idea is to try to get you to prove a) that you owe money and b) that their statements and assignment documents are true and admissible as evidence. So in this case, my client had to show up for trial and Midland’s lawyer called her up to testify. It didn’t matter though, because I convinced the judge to exclude their other evidence and without it, there wasn’t enough to prove their case. So we won.