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  1. #1
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    Default Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    My question involves collection proceedings in the State of: PA

    Please note that this is pertaining to an old debt judgment against me and it is not a student loan, but student tuition debt.
    Here's my story:
    I enrolled in 1999 for a couple of months in Drexel University, then I left the school (Philadelphia) and moved to New York. Suddenly last year, NOV 2015, my bank accounts were frozen here in New York City. I then learned that Drexel had defaulted a judgment against me (over $20,000) in PA in 2006, and then domesticated the judgment in New York in 2008. With the help of a very kind organization, NewEconomyProject, I have spent the last months vacated the New York judgment, removed the bank restraints, and now have to answer the court in this coming June. However, due to "full faith and credit", I have a feeling that I cannot do much about the judgment here in New York, so I would like some advice about vacating and dismissing the judgment in Philadelphia.

    I don't have any documents of my enrollment in Drexel University and it's so long ago. I barely went to that school and they are charging me for what seems like one year or more of tuition. I tried to use the PA court online system to vacate the judgment but I did not know what to do when the system requests some sort of pdf attachment, I'm just lost here. Based on the court file, Drexel claim that I "verbally" agreed to the contract, and that I have made payments before. I don't remember much of these. I have tried calling the PA bar association and paid $35 for that service but the advice I got was just to settle. Am I the only one who thinks it is unjust? I live in New York now and going to school and work part time. And I am guessing I have to travel back and forth to PA just to deal with this unfortunate case.

    Since PA Bar association can't help much, I am hoping to get some help here...Please help me!

    btw, is there such a thing as paying a lawyer only if one wins? Coz though I am really poor, I would not mind to hire such service.

    Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart!

  2. #2
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    Mar 2013
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    btw, is there such a thing as paying a lawyer only if one wins?
    I'll answer that first. Yes, it's called contingency and it's typically used for personal injury cases, not for this kind of thing.
    You'll either have to pay an attorney, use Legal Aid in PA, do it yourself, or file bankruptcy.

    Quote Quoting timlyg
    View Post
    I enrolled in 1999 for a couple of months in Drexel University, then I left the school (Philadelphia) and moved to New York. Suddenly last year, NOV 2015, my bank accounts were frozen here in New York City. I then learned that Drexel had defaulted a judgment against me (over $20,000) in PA in 2006, and then domesticated the judgment in New York in 2008. With the help of a very kind organization, NewEconomyProject, I have spent the last months vacated the New York judgment, removed the bank restraints, and now have to answer the court in this coming June. However, due to "full faith and credit", I have a feeling that I cannot do much about the judgment here in New York, so I would like some advice about vacating and dismissing the judgment in Philadelphia.
    What court this coming June? If you've already vacated the NY domestication, what else is there to do in NY?

    Quote Quoting timlyg
    View Post
    However, due to "full faith and credit", I have a feeling that I cannot do much about the judgment here in New York, so I would like some advice about vacating and dismissing the judgment in Philadelphia.
    You're correct. The original lawsuit is in Philadelphia and has to be addressed in Philadelphia. To that end, your first step is to contact the court there and get a complete copy of the case file (every scrap of paper in it) so you can figure out what happened. Specifically, you want to review the Affidavit of Service which should tell you how process service was done. Due to the age of the debt it occurs to me that unscrupulous bottom feeding collection agencies bought the debt for pennies on the dollar and then engaged in "sewer service", the intentional failure to provide service of process on a named party in a lawsuit, in order to prevent the party from having a chance to respond.

    Once you have the file you can determine whether the process service was fraudulent and go from there.

    Here is the PA court rule for relief from a default judgment. Make sure you read all the annotations:

    http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/23...00/s237.3.html

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    I don't have any documents of my enrollment in Drexel University and it's so long ago.
    A good argument for scanning all your personal and financial records on to your computer and keeping them forever.

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    I tried to use the PA court online system to vacate the judgment but I did not know what to do when the system requests some sort of pdf attachment,
    Provide a link to that and I'll see if I can figure it out.

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    Based on the court file, Drexel claim that I "verbally" agreed to the contract,
    Do you have the entire court file?

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    I have tried calling the PA bar association and paid $35 for that service but the advice I got was just to settle.
    Try Philadelphia Legal Assistance:

    https://philalegal.org/

    See if there's help there even though you aren't a resident now.

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    Am I the only one who thinks it is unjust?
    No. But what I or anybody else thinks really doesn't matter. It happened and you are faced with handling.

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    I live in New York now and going to school and work part time. And I am guessing I have to travel back and forth to PA just to deal with this unfortunate case.
    That's right.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2016
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    Thank you so much for responding, adjusterjack!
    I had thought that no one replied since I didn't get any email notification, had I not come check this page. My heart was so relieved just to see someone responding to my post, even before I read it.
    Based on your response, I'll answer to my best ability, so as to clarify some things.

    What court this coming June? If you've already vacated the NY domestication, what else is there to do in NY?
    This is the NY court. Perhaps I worded it wrong. When I said "vacated", I should have said "stipulated". I thought they were the same thing. It went like this, when I learned of the NY judgment after bank garnishment, I got helped from NewEconomyProjectNYC and CLARO (probono services) to file an answer regarding not being served properly. I then got a court hearing date (last December). Just a day before that court hearing, the plaintiff's lawyer called me to have me signed a stipulation so that my bank restraint is lifted, provided I answer in 30 days. With the help of the same probono services, I answered and had a new court hearing date (in February), which I attended with a volunteer lawyer. But all I know is that the volunteer lawyer was trying to argue against jurisdiction for domesticating the judgment from PA (I hope I used the terminologies correctly). The court attorney (we did not speak to the judge directly) only gave me the choice of postponing the hearing to June or settle by paying the full amount. My volunteer lawyer and I chose to postpone it. Then, I was flooded with school and work and more research into all these in the meantime.

    You're correct. The original lawsuit is in Philadelphia and has to be addressed in Philadelphia. To that end, your first step is to contact the court there and get a complete copy of the case file (every scrap of paper in it) so you can figure out what happened. Specifically, you want to review the Affidavit of Service which should tell you how process service was done. Due to the age of the debt it occurs to me that unscrupulous bottom feeding collection agencies bought the debt for pennies on the dollar and then engaged in "sewer service", the intentional failure to provide service of process on a named party in a lawsuit, in order to prevent the party from having a chance to respond.
    I could be wrong since I'm not familiar with law stuff. But I think my debt was not bought by a third party. It was Drexel University's lawyer in PA, who then had another law firm in NY domesticated the judgment.


    I don't have any documents of my enrollment in Drexel University and it's so long ago.
    A good argument for scanning all your personal and financial records on to your computer and keeping them forever.
    I do not understand this. Did you mean I should have scanned all my records back then? Or is this some kind of good argument for me to use in court?


    Provide a link to that and I'll see if I can figure it out.
    I used http://www.courts.phila.gov => Online Services => Electronic Filing Systems=> Civil, Criminal E-Filing=> logged in => Civil/Orphan E-Filing => I entered my case number: 031100954, Motions/Petitions to Vacate => Checked my party as Defendent => after a few continues, I am at a page called "File Attachment" where I'm asked to attach a pdf file. There is a box that says:
    Pursuant to Phila.Civ.R. *206.1 and *208.3, the following components are required:
    - Petition/Motion signed/verified by moving party
    - Proposed Order, which shall contain no reference to the attorney proposing same (Phila Civ.R.*208.3(b)(3)(ii))
    - Proposed Rule (if appropriate)
    - Memorandum of Law as provided in Phila.Civ.R.*208.2(c) and *210 (if appropriate)

    This is where I'm stuck. Until I attach some file, I cannot proceed. I am not even sure if I'm using the right online service. This seems too new to me...I mean, in NY, I had to be physically file documents in court, but it seems that I can do the PA filling online (If I know what file to attach), unless I'm not understanding the procedure.


    Do you have the entire court file?
    I believe I have both the PA & NY court files in its entirety.
    I got the PA court to scan my file online where I then purchased the scans online. So I have the files. I believe I have them in entirety. I would not mind to show you everything if you are willing to look at it. I don't know if I could attach the files in this forum.


    Well, that should answer your question. I hope this clear things up. And thank you again for your kind aid. I am trying to pass my first senior semester with tons of midterms and finals are coming up, you've taken much burden from me to do some newbie research on my own. I will try contacting PAlegal ASAP this Monday as you suggested.
    Thanks again!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    I had thought that no one replied since I didn't get any email notification, had I not come check this page.
    You have to check back here daily for responses. Most of us volunteers answer posts within a day, maybe two at the most.

    Did you mean I should have scanned all my records back then?
    Yes.

    That's just a good thing to get accustomed to doing for any type of personal and financial records. With cheap flatbed scanners and lots of hard drive space and a back up drive you can keep your records on file forever and not pile up paper.

    I'm going to defer the rest of your questions and cover just one for now.

    I believe I have both the PA & NY court files in its entirety.
    I got the PA court to scan my file online where I then purchased the scans online. So I have the files. I believe I have them in entirety.
    Did you find the "Affidavit of Service" in the PA case file? Could be called something else but it's a document that will say how the PA summons and complaint was delivered. What does it say?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    Did you find the "Affidavit of Service" in the PA case file? Could be called something else but it's a document that will say how the PA summons and complaint was delivered. What does it say?
    And how long have you known about the judgment? There are time limits for seeking to vacate judgments, and given the length of time here, you may have a problem with that.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    You have to check back here daily for responses. Most of us volunteers answer posts within a day, maybe two at the most.
    Did you find the "Affidavit of Service" in the PA case file? Could be called something else but it's a document that will say how the PA summons and complaint was delivered. What does it say?
    Thank you for replying sir. I did get a copy of the affidavit of service in the PA case. It mentioned that it served me on several addresses which I no longer stayed (at the time of service) except for the last one (in New York), but I am not aware of it and the recipient's signature on file was not my signature.

    Quote Quoting Taxing Matters
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    And how long have you known about the judgment? There are time limits for seeking to vacate judgments, and given the length of time here, you may have a problem with that.
    I found out about both PA and the domesticated NY judgments since around last November when my banks got restraint. Judgments are from 2004,2006 respectively.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    Quote Quoting timlyg
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    Thank you for replying sir. I did get a copy of the affidavit of service in the PA case. It mentioned that it served me on several addresses which I no longer stayed (at the time of service) except for the last one (in New York), but I am not aware of it and the recipient's signature on file was not my signature.
    Not helpful, so let me clarify what I meant when I wrote "What does it say"?

    Quote it word for word from top to bottom. Or, scan it and post a copy.

    And identify the person who signed it.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    I see...sorry for the delay, not my intention. I thought I had changed to notification settings. I guess you're right, I just have to check the site every day.

    I will attach the affidavit below:
    Note: 2 image files from pdf scans of two affidavits. I think one is served to me in Philly (right address but I have moved from there for years), the other one later in New York (right address where I was staying) by the same law firm. Unless I've mistaken, they are both in the PA file, NOT the NY file.
    By the way, the signature of the return receipt shown below is not my signature.

    First Affidavit:


    Second Affidavit:


    Hope this help now. Please help me. Thank you!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    The first Affidavit of Service can be ignored because it attests to the failure of service.

    The second is the one that needs to be challenged and you will have to challenge it in the court in which it was filed.

    Obviously, one issue is that you didn't sign the receipt so the summons and complaint was not served on you.

    Another issue is whether service by certified mail was proper in the first place.

    Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure:

    Rule 404. Service Outside the Commonwealth
    Original process shall be served outside the Commonwealth within ninety days of the issuance of the writ or the filing of the complaint or the reissuance or the reinstatement thereof;

    by a competent adult in the manner provided by Rule 402(a);

    by mail in the manner provided by Rule 403;

    Rule 402. Service Upon Individuals. Adults. Minors. Incapacitated Persons.
    Original process may be served upon a defendant who is an adult
    1.by handing a copy to the defendant; or
    2.by handing a copy
    1.at the residence of the defendant to an adult member of the family with whom the defendant resides; but if no adult member of the family is found, then to an adult person in charge of such residence; or
    2.at the hotel, inn, apartment house, boarding house or other place of lodging at which the defendant resides to the manager or other person authorized to accept deliveries of United States mail; or
    3.at any office or usual place of business of the defendant to the defendant’s agent or to the person for the time being in charge.

    Rule 403. Service by Mail
    If a rule of civil procedure authorizes original process to be served by mail, a copy of the process shall be mailed to the defendant by any form of United States mail requiring a receipt signed by the defendant or the defendant’s authorized agent. Service is complete upon the defendant or the defendant’s authorized agent signing the required receipt. •If the mail is returned with notation by the postal authorities that the defendant refused to accept the mail, the plaintiff shall have the right of service by mailing a copy to the defendant at the same address by ordinary mail with the return address of the sender appearing thereon. Service by ordinary mail is complete if the mail is not returned by the postal authorities to the sender within fifteen days after mailing.
    If the mail is returned with notation by the postal authorities that it was unclaimed, the plaintiff shall make service by another means pursuant to these rules.

    http://www.serve-now.com/resources/p...s/pennsylvania

    Note my emphasis under Rule 403. Service by mail.

    I have not been able to find any rules of the Court of Common Pleas that allow service by mail. That's not to say that there aren't any, just that I haven't found them. I have to admit that PA is one of the few states that give me grief when I try to research something.

    Take another look through the PA case file and see if, at some point the plaintiff asked for, and was granted, authority to serve by mail.

    If there's nothing in there you'll have to determine if there is a local rule in Philadelphia. I suggest calling one of the free legal services in Philadelphia and see if they can point you to the rules that address the issue. You'll want to get chapter and verse, not just somebody saying "Oh yeah, that's how it's done."

    https://clsphila.org/

    https://philalegal.org/

    It's the difference between having two issues to challenge or just one.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Can You Dispute a Judgment for Unpaid Tuition

    Thank you adjusterjack for such elaborate reply.
    I'll follow up on Rule 403 per your suggestion.
    In the online docket record, it says that the affidavit in March 24 was a sheriff's service. A reinstated complaint. I don't know what that means. But doesn't sound like a proof of authorized for service by mail.

    A couple of questions I have:
    1. Since I will be answering (I think this is what it's called) in the NYC court this coming June 6, for this "domesticated" judgment, long story short, if I failed in NYC that means I have no choice but to start a payment plan with the plaintiff, can I still try to vacate/dismiss the PA case after that? in hoping not to pay all $20k+ eventually.
    2. Can I somehow turn this into an "injury case"? Because all this has really caused me much trouble while struggling with part-time work and full time college study. I don't want any compensation, I just want them to stop pressing me with this burden which I think is quite unfair. This way I can maybe apply for the "contingency" deal as you mentioned: pay only if I win.


    Thanks again!

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