How to answer interrogatories in a debt collection lawsuit

In the past, I’ve written about the importance of answering a debt collection lawsuit. But answering the lawsuit is only the first step. After the debt collector receives your answer, they’ll usually send you written discovery. The discovery will probably have interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission. In Minnesota, it’s critical that you respond to each of these things within 30 days of receiving them. I’ll talk about each of them separately, starting with the interrogatories.

Interrogatories are simply just questions about the case. Debt collectors are allowed to ask about anything that is relevant to their claims or your defenses. Do your best to answer each question. If you don’t understand what the interrogatory is asking, then you may answer that you object to the interrogatory as vague or ambiguous. Like requests for admission, your answers to each interrogatory are due within 30 days. Unlike requests for admission, it’s not fatal to your case if you don’t answer within this time. But you should make every effort to answer within 30 days and you should never just ignore the interrogatories.

Requests for admission are usually short, true/false statements. You’re required to either admit or deny each statement. If the statement is completely true, you have to admit it. If any part of the statement is false, you should deny it. If you don’t have enough information to admit or deny the statement, then you should deny it. For example, if the request asks you to admit to owing a very specific sum of money and you’re not sure if that amount is accurate, then you should deny the request. If the request asks you to admit that a certain debt buyer purchased your account from the original creditor and you can’t be sure that they have (and you almost never can), you should deny the request. Most importantly, it’s critical to respond to the requests for admission within 30 days. If you don’t answer them within this time, the court will treat each question as if you admitted it. Debt collectors sneakily structure their requests for admission to contain statements about each element of their case. That way if you fail to respond to them, they’ll have proven their case in its entirety. You don’t want to give the debt collector this free pass. Make sure you answer the requests for admission within the 30 days and force them to produce actual proof of their case.

Requests for production of documents allow the debt collector to determine what, if any, documents you have to support your defenses. Again, your responses are due within 30 days. You only have to produce documents that are in your possession. If you don’t have the document, you don’t have to produce it. In fact, in most debt collection lawsuits, the consumer doesn’t have any documents that they can respond with. But if you have what the debt collector is asking for, you must send them a copy of it. Like interrogatories, there is no fatal penalty for failing to answer the requests for production of documents within 30 days, but you should make every effort to do so and you should never ignore requests for production of documents. Once you’ve answered all three types of discovery, you should send a copy of your answers to the debt collector’s attorney. Make sure to keep a copy for yourself.

A final word of caution: there are many forms available online that seemingly can be used to answer debt collection discovery. But before you just copy and paste from the internet, make sure you understand what the form answers mean and whether they apply to the discovery requests for your case. And be careful with objections. Unless you understand what an objection means and are relatively sure it applies to the question you’ve been asked, it’s probably best to just answer the question.