Up to this point I’ve written about some specific, narrow aspects of credit card lawsuits in Georgia. I have discussed the 30-day deadline for answering a Complaint in a credit card lawsuit. I have described the three types of courts that end up hearing credit card lawsuits in Georgia. I have also outlined the 3 basic stages of a credit card lawsuit in Georgia.

In this post I will discuss the anatomy of a Georgia credit card lawsuit. I will do this by discussing three things I look for first in any credit card lawsuit I handle.

Focusing on these three things provides an outline of the basic legal issues facing every credit card lawsuit in Georgia. Credit card lawsuits in Georgia must (1) be brought by the person or entity who owns the debt, (2) be brought within the statute of limitations, and (3) make a prima facie case for breach of contract.

Does the Plaintiff own the credit card debt?

Plaintiffs have the burden of proving they have a right to bring the credit card lawsuit against you. This means they must show they actually own the debt upon which they’re suing. This is not a problem if the credit card company is the one suing you.

Third-party debt collectors tend to have a tougher time proving they own the credit card debt. These third-party debt collectors must show the chain of assignment from the credit card company to them which shows that they purchased the credit card debt.

This chain must be complete—there can be no breaks. It must also identify your account in a manner sufficient to connect the dots. This means it must be clear enough to identify the loan or credit card account that is the subject of the lawsuit.

Georgia law requires this chain of assignment to be in writing. In addition, Georgia’s best-evidence rule requires the original assignment documents to be presented as evidence. Testimony from an employee of a third-party debt collector is not sufficient to prove a chain of assignment.

This is a potential stumbling block for third-party debt collectors who bring thousands of credit card lawsuits but keep poor records.

Was the credit card lawsuit filed within the statute of limitations?

Credit card debts have a six-year statute of limitations in Georgia. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-24; Phoenix Recovery Group, Inc. v. Mehta, 663 S.E.2d 290, 291-92 (Ga. Ct. App. 2008). This six-year period does not begin from when the credit card account was opened—it begins when the credit card went into default.  Even after a credit card goes into default, if the account holder makes partial payments on the account then the six-year count must begin again.  So while it might at first seem simple to calculate when a credit card is beyond a six-year statute of limitation, it’s not as easy as it first seems and will depend on the specific facts of each credit card lawsuit case.

Does the lawsuit make a prima facie case for breach of contract?

Plaintiffs must prove a prima facie case in order to win a lawsuit. Prima facie is latin for “at first face” or “at first look.” In other words, does this claim make sense at first look?

Credit card lawsuits are breach of contract cases. Plaintiffs must show three things to make a prima facie case for breach of contract: (1) the subject matter of the contract, (2) consideration, and (3) mutual assent by all parties to the contract terms. Failure to prove any one of these three things is failure to prove a contract exists.

One way credit card companies prove these elements is to show the defendant used the card and therefore benefitted from the account. This shows the subject matter of the account (a credit account), consideration (the loaning of money by the credit card company; the use of that loaned money by the defendant), and mutual assent (the defendant used the money, the credit card company lent it).

How to use this information on the basic legal questions facing credit card lawsuits

This post provides a very general outline of the legal issues facing each credit card lawsuit. If you have been sued by a credit card company, then I urge you to contact an experience credit card lawsuit attorney. It doesn’t have to be me, but speak with someone who is experienced at defending credit card lawsuits.

These cases are often winnable. When they cannot be won, an experienced attorney can help you negotiate with the debt collector.

So speak with an experienced credit card lawsuit attorney about your case—it will provide you the best chance to win at trial.