Welcome to Porter Superior Court Division 4. Many of the cases that are dealt with here concern an allegation of the non-payment of a debt, such as a medical debt, credit card balances, attorney fees, or other loans. This memo has been provided to you to help answer some of the frequently asked questions that persons being sued may have.
If this is your first time in Court, your case is set for notice of claim and/or initial hearing. Failure to appear on this date can result in the debt collector winning a judgment in your absence. However, a trial will usually not be held on this date. Rather, because of the thousands of cases filed every year, the first court date is used as a settlement conference. That is, you and your representative of the debt collector are asked to talk about the case and see if you can agree on an outcome such as an agreed payment plan or dismissal of the case if you do not owe the money or if the debt has already been paid.
The Court may order you to take part in mediation with trained mediators in an effort to settle the case. If your case is under $3000, free mediators will be used from the Valparaiso University School of Law. If your case is over $3000, but less than $6000, you and the other party can be ordered to pay for a trained mediator at an hourly rate from $100-$175 per hour and you will split the mediator's fees equally. The Court can wait to give you a trial date until you have provided proof that you each have mediated the case.
Keep in mind that even if you discuss the case with the other side, or mediate the case, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SETTLE YOUR CASE. At any time once mediation is completed, you can tell the mediator and Court that you want to go before the judge and your case will be set for trial. However, it has been our experience that many lawsuits can be resolved with a simple conversation between the parties or with 1 hour of mediation.
Depending on the type of lawsuit yours is, you should know the following:
1. If you are being sued for medical bills, you should know that usually, parents are responsible for the medical expenses of their children and husbands and wives can be responsible for each other's medical bills.
2. Usually, the fact that you have medical insurance, which has not paid the bill, is not a defense to whether the money is owed. If your medical insurance has not paid the bill and you think it should have, that is an issue you need to take up with your insurance company.
3. If you are being sued for an NSF check, you should know that the debt collector may collect up to three times the value of the bounced check and attorney fees if the debt collector or attorney can prove that at the time the check was written, you had insufficient funds in the account to make the check good.
Many other questions you have can be answered by getting a copy of the Small Claims Manual from the Small Claims Clerk's Office or from this website.