The following is a glossary of terms that are frequently used in the debt collection industry and by collection attorneys. If you would like to contribute a term and its definition, email results@nationallist.com.


ACCELERATION CLAUSE.  A contract term that allows the creditor to declare the entire amount due, if the debtor defaults.

ACCORD AND SATISFACTION.  An agreement to settle a debt by partial payment. It might be presumed by negotiating a check marked “payment in full,” or words to that effect.

ACCOUNT STATED. A cause of action where the creditor sends a statement of the debtor’s account to the debtor and the debtor fails to object or pay the balance due.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT.  (1) A letter from an attorney that confirms receipt of a collection claim or legal matter. (2) A written statement by a Notary Public that a person signed a legal document.

ACTION. A lawsuit.

ACTIONABLE.  Affording grounds for a legal action.

ADJUDICATION. An official ruling by a judge, usually in the form of an order or judgement.

ADVANCED COURT COSTS.  Those funds advanced by the plaintiff so that counsel may pay the appropriate fees for the filing of suit and process of service.  

ADMINISTRATOR.  A person appointed by the court to manage and distribute the assets of an estate, when the deceased has not left a will or where an executor has not been appointed or qualified under the will.

AFFIANT. A person who signs an affidavit.

AFFIDAVIT. A written statement of facts signed under penalty of perjury or before a notary public.

AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE. A defense to a claim that assumes the allegations in the complaint are true. A successful affirmative defense excuses the party from all or part of the debt. Affirmative defenses include: accord and satisfaction, fraud, payment, statute of limitations, and so on.

AFTER-ACQUIRED PROPERTY.  Property that a debtor acquires after the execution of a mortgage or other form of indebtedness and that secures such indebtedness.

AGENT. A person who acts on behalf of another person, called the principal, and has authority to bind the principal. Agency can either be express or implied by the conduct of the agent or principal.

ALLEGATION. An assertion made by a party, usually in a complaint, answer, or other pleading, that requires proof to establish its validity.

AMEND. To change a document already filed with the court by adding, removing, or changing the content.

ANSWER. A written response to a complaint. The answer must admit or deny each of the allegations of the complaint and may allege affirmative defenses.

APPEAL. A review of a court decision by a higher court based upon the same evidence presented and the application of the correct law.

APPEARANCE. The confirmation of a party’s participation in lawsuit either by themselves or through an attorney. The plaintiff appears by filing the complaint. A defendant may appear by filing a written response to the complaint or, in small claims cases, showing up for the pretrial conference.

ARBITRATION. An informal trial held in front of an independent arbitrator rather than a judge. Arbitration might be required by contract. Arbitration can be binding or non-binding. The decision in a binding arbitration may be reduced to a judgement by the court. If a party does not like the result of non-binding arbitration, they can request a regular trial in front of the court.

ASSETS. All of an entity’s valuable resources and possessions, including cash, real property, debts owed to them, etc.

ASSIGNEE. An entity to whom the rights of another entity are transferred under an agreement.

ASSIGNMENT. The transfer of one entity’s rights (the “assignor”) under an agreement to another (the “assignee”). This can include the sale of a debt from a creditor to another entity.

ASSIGNMENT FOR THE BENEFIT OF CREDITORS. A voluntary transfer, by an insolvent debtor, of all property and assets to a neutral third party. The assets are then liquidated and distributed to creditors based on priority. It is, in essence, an informal voluntary bankruptcy.

ASSIGNOR. An entity who transfers their rights under an agreement to another entity.

ATTACHMENT. The legal seizure of assets by an officer of the court pursuant to a judgement or court order.

BANKRUPTCY. The formal process of an entity either to (1) reorganize their debts and pay creditors over a period of time, or (2) turn over their assets to be administered by a trustee and be released from any further liability to their creditors. The three most common types of bankruptcy (named for the part of the Federal Bankruptcy Code where they are found) are:

  1. CHAPTER 7: Simple liquidation. The debtor’s assets are liquidated by the trustee. The proceeds are distributed among the creditors according to set priorities. The debtor is relived of all existing debts (though some types of debts are exempt). Can be filed by an individual or business.
  2. CHAPTER 11: A reorganization for non-individuals. The debtor tries to rehabilitate its financial structure. Creditors are paid according to a court-approved plan based on the type and amount of the debt.
  3. CHAPTER 13: A reorganization for individuals with a regular source of income and limited debts. Creditors are paid, according to a court-approved plan, a pro-rata share of the debtor’s earnings, based on the type and amount of the debt.

BILL OF LADING. A receipt and contract issued by common carrier for the shipment of goods.

BREACH. The failure to act as required by an agreement, such as the failure to pay.

BRIEF. A detailed written argument filed with and at the request of the court. Generally, a brief sets forth the issues before the court: the relevant facts, the relevant law, and argument applying the law to the facts of the case. Briefs are required in an appeal.

BULK TRANSFER. The transfer of all or a large part of the inventory or trade fixtures of a business that is not done in the ordinary course of business.

» Back to the top

CAUSE OF ACTION. A specific legal theory of the plaintiff’s claim that requires specific allegations to raise, including account stated, breach of contract, goods sold and delivered, open account, etc.

CHATTEL. Personal property, either a specific piece or a general class of property, as distinguished from real property.

CHATTEL MORTGAGE.  Security interest taken by the mortgagee in personal property of the mortgagor. A per-Uniform Commercial Code device.

CLOSING LETTER. A letter sent by the attorney to the creditor or its agent, advising that the attorney is closing his file and stating the reasons for doing so.

COLLATERAL SECURITY.   A separate obligation which is given to secure the performance of the primary obligation in a contract.

COMMERCIAL CLAIM. A claim based on debt arising from the operation of a business, as opposed to a retail claim.

COMMISSION. The contingent fee owed to the attorney for collecting a debt, usually calculated as a percentage of the amount collected.

COMPLAINT. The written pleading filed by a plaintiff to initiate a lawsuit. The complaint includes (1) allegations supporting the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, (2) a short and plain statement of the facts that support the plaintiff’s causes of action, and (3) the relief requested, usually a demand for money.

COMPOSITION SETTLEMENT. An out-of-court agreement between a debtor and all of his creditors, in which the creditors agree to accept a lesser amount in full satisfaction of their claims.

COMPROMISE. An agreement by a creditor to accept less than the full amount they are owed in order to get paid more quickly or to avoid a court appearance.

CONDITIONAL SALE. An installment sale, in which the goods are delivered to the buyer but the title remains with the seller until the price is fully paid.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST. A situation when an attorney cannot handle a case because of a relationship with the debtor, such as a personal relationship or representation on another matter.

CONSUMER CLAIM. A claim where the debtor is an individual and that is based on a transaction for a household, personal or family use. Also known as a “retail claim.”

CONTEMPT OF COURT. A finding by a judge that a person has intentionally disobeyed a court order or has engaged in conduct before the court that is calculated to disrupt the proceedings of the court.

CONTINGENT FEE. Compensation earned by an attorney, payable only when a particular event occurs, usually collecting money on behalf of the client. The contingent fee is usually computed as a percentage of the amount collected.

CONTINUANCE. A postponement of a pending court event, such a deposition or trial. In some instances, a continuance must be approved by the judge and will only be granted in extreme circumstances.

CONTRACT. An agreement, either written or oral, between two or more parties that defines the obligations and liabilities of the parties.

CONVEYANCE. A transfer of one party’s rights or title in property to another party in accordance with law. The term usually refers to the transfer of real property.

CORPORATE VEIL. The metaphorical barrier between a corporation and its owners. It prevents an owner from being liable for the debts of the corporation. The corporate veil can be “pierced” in certain circumstances.

CORPORATION. A legal entity that has its own individuality, in accordance with local law, separate and distinct from its owners and officers.

COST ADVANCE. Money given by the creditor to the attorney at the outset of the claim used to pay for court costs. Cost advances are used to prevent delay in litigating a claim while waiting for funds to be sent. Also known as a “cost retainer.”

COUNTERCLAIM. A claim by a defendant against the plaintiff in a currently pending lawsuit, exposing the plaintiff to the defendant’s claim rather than simply asserting a defense against the plaintiff’s claim.

COURT COSTS. Charges related to litigating a claim, including the fee to file the complaint, the service fee, the fee to record the judgement, fees for post-judgement remedies such as garnishment, and so on.

COVENANT. A promise.

CREDITORS COMMITTEE. A voluntary and representative group of creditors created to examine the operation of an insolvent debtor company. Usually found in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy and organized to ensure an equitable return to creditors.

CROSS-COMPLAINT. A cause of action filed by one defendant against another defendant in the same lawsuit, such as for indemnity of the debt involved in the original complaint. See also, Counterclaim.

DEFAULT. (1) The failure to perform as required by an agreement, such as the failure to make payments called for in contract. (2) An order of the clerk or the judge, entered when a defendant has failed to appear in or otherwise defend a lawsuit.

DEFAULT JUDGEMENT. A judgement granted when the defendant fails to appear in or otherwise defend a lawsuit.

DEFENDANT. The entity being sued and against whom the plaintiff seeks relief.

DEFENSE. The formal response by the defendant in a court of law. An argument attempting to justify the defendant’s position. See also, Affirmative Defense.

DEFUNCT. Used to describe a business that no longer operates and has no assets.

DEMAND LETTER. A letter by an attorney notifying a debtor that he/she is representing the creditor and requesting payment of the debt.

DENIAL. A rejection by a defendant of the factual allegations of the plaintiff’s complaint. A denial requires the plaintiff to prove the allegation.

DEPONENT. The person directed to appear for and give testimony at a deposition.

DEPOSITION. Oral testimony taken under oath in front of a court reporter. Depositions are used to prepare for trial by discovering evidence concerning the issues to be tried, and are used post-judgement to discover assets to satisfy the judgement.

DISCHARGE. An order entered in a bankruptcy case that relieves a debtor from having to pay any debt subject to the discharge. (Some types of debts are exempt from discharge.)

DISCOVERY. The process of getting information and documents from an opposing party, including interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admissions, depositions, and so on.

DISHONOR. The nonpayment of a check or other negotiable instrument on its due date, usually the result of insufficient funds in the account or a stop-payment order.

DISMISSAL. The termination of a lawsuit either voluntarily or by order of the court. See also, Prejudice.

DISTRIBUTION. A payment made by apportioning a pool of money among a group of people, such as the payments made to creditors as part of a bankruptcy, or assignment for the benefit of creditors.

DRAFT. (1) A written order for the payment of money drawn by one person or bank on another, including a check. (2) An unfinished version of a document, such as a complaint.

ENDORSEMENT. The signature of a person on a negotiable instrument, such as a check, to transfer their rights to another. (Sometimes spelled “indorsement.”)

ENTITY. Any being recognized under the law, such as an individual, partnership, corporation and so on.

EQUITY OF REDEMPTION.  The right of a mortgagor to redeem his property after the mortgage is past due.

ESCROW.  The delivery by a grantor of a deed or of personal property to a third person for delivery to the grantee upon the happening of certain conditions.

EXECUTION. (1) An order issued by the court commanding the sheriff to seize sufficient property of the debtor to satisfy a judgement. (2) The process of signing a document, such as a contract.

EXEMPTION. Legal immunity, such as the head of a family’s exemption from having their wages garnished.

EXHIBIT. (1) A document offered as evidence at a trial, hearing, or deposition. (2) A document attached to a complaint, motion, or other paper filed with the court.

FACTOR. A person or entity who purchases a manufacturer’s accounts receivable to facilitate financing. The purchase and sale of the accounts receivable is called “factoring.”

FICTITIOUS NAME (TRADE NAME). The title utilized by a business instead of the actual names of the individuals or the legal name of the corporation as registered with the state. Fictitious names are required to be registered with the state.

FILED ANSWER.  Debtor indicates that he owes the debt and will pay it, or he disputes the debt.

FOLLOW-UP.  A date an attorney gives a forwarder advising when he will be able to report with further information on a claim.

FORCED SALE. A sale required by a court order and in a manner prescribed by law, such as a foreclosure sale.

FORECLOSURE. The option of a secured creditor, upon default by the debtor, to force the sale of mortgaged property in order to satisfy the outstanding debt.

FOREIGN CORPORATION. A corporation created under the laws of another state.

FORWARDER. An entity who refers claims to attorneys for collection as the agent of the creditor. A forwarder may be an attorney, a collection agency, a credit bureau, a credit insurance company, or any other entity that acts on behalf of the creditor for this purpose.

FRAUD. A cause of action or a defense alleging that the one party knowingly made a misrepresentation that another party relied on to their disadvantage.

FORWARDING CONTRACT. An agreement, which includes the commissions and other terms and conditions, entered into between the creditor, or the forwarder as the agent of the creditor, and the attorney. The forwarding agreement may incorporate the Operative Guides of the Commercial Law League of America.

FRAUDULENT CONVEYANCE. The illegal transfer of an asset to defraud a creditor or avoid payment of an obligation. A fraudulent conveyance may be set aside by the court.

» Back to the top

GARNISHEE. An entity who possesses money, wages, or other property of the debtor and against whom a writ of garnishment is issued. Usually, the garnishee is the debtor’s employer or a bank where the debtor has an account.

GARNISHMENT. An order directing the garnishee to pay to the plaintiff the money it owes to the debtor. A continuing garnishment can be entered against a debtor’s employer. This requires the employer to pay a percentage of all wages earned by the debtor to the plaintiff. These payments go to satisfying the judgement.

GOODS SOLD AND DELIVERED. A cause of action where the creditor sells goods to the debtor and the debtor fails to pay for them.

GUARANTEE.  To assume the liability for such debts of another in the event of his default.

GUARANTOR. An entity who agrees to be responsible for the debt of another.

GUARANTY. A written agreement in which one entity agrees to be responsible for the debt of another.

HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD. An exemption to garnishment given to a person who is the head of a family and provides more than half the support for a child or other dependent.

HEARING. A meeting in front of the judge, usually for the purpose of arguing a motion.

HOLDER IN DUE COURSE. A technical term for a bona fide holder who takes a negotiable instrument for value, in good faith, and without notice of it being overdue or of possible defenses.

IMPLEADER. An action to hold a third party liable for the judgment against the debtor, based on a fraudulent transfer, preferential payment to an insider, commingling of the debtor’s assets with those of the third party, and so on.

INDEMNITY. The right of a debtor to seek reimbursement of the debt owed from a third party, such as the right of a husband to seek payment from a wife pursuant to a divorce decree.

INJUNCTION. An order forbidding or requiring a person to do some act.

INSOLVENCY.  Condition of a person who is unable to pay his debts as they fall due. The general term is to be distinguished from a person who is bankrupt and whose liabilities exceed assets.

INSOLVENT. A negative financial condition when an entity has no ability to pay their debts as they come due, or when their liabilities exceed their assets.

INTERROGATORIES. A form of discovery where one party sends written questions to the other party to answer in writing and under oath.

JUDGEMENT. An order giving the final resolution of a lawsuit. A judgement for the plaintiff usually includes an award of damages that the plaintiff can try to recover from the defendant.

“JUDGEMENT PROOF.”  A colloquialism that describes a debtor against whom any judgement obtained would likely be uncollectible.

JURISDICTION. The authority of a court to consider a particular case. There are two forms of jurisdiction. Subject-matter jurisdiction is based on the type and amount of the claim. Personal jurisdiction requires the plaintiff to serve the defendant with process, and that the defendant has a reasonable connection to the court where the suit is filed. (See also, Venue).

LAW LIST. A publication (such as The National List of Attorneys) that lists the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of receiving attorneys and law firms and that insures claims submitted over its list to its attorney members.

LEASE CONTRACT. An agreement in which one party (the “lessor”) rents something to another party (the “lessee”), while retaining ownership of it.

LEGAL COMPOSITION. The type of organization a business entity operates under, such as sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and so forth.

LETTER OF CREDIT. A guaranty of payment in letter form generally supplied by a financial institution to another party.

LEVY. The process by which a debtor’s assets are seized by the Sheriff, pursuant to a writ of execution or writ of attachment. The levied property is then sold at a public auction, and the proceeds are distributed to cover the costs of the levy, with the remaining amount going toward satisfying the judgement.

LIABILITY. A debt or the issue of determining whether a debt is owed.

LIABLE. Legal responsibility for a debt.

LIEN. An encumbrance on a particular asset, created by agreement as security in the extension of credit, or by law after a recording a judgement.

LIMITED PARTNERSHIP. A type of legal entity, consisting of a general partner(s), responsible for the operation and management of the business, and a limited partner(s), who does not participate in the management and control of the partnership. The limited partner, in exchange for giving up management and control of the partnership, is not liable for the debts of the partnership.

LIQUIDATION. The orderly sale of all of a debtor’s assets.

» Back to the top

MORTGAGE. A written agreement granting an interest in real property as security for a debt.

MOTION. A request to the court, usually in written form, for ruling on a point of law.

NON-CONTINGENT SUIT FEE.  Money sent to the attorney for filing a law suit. The money is kept by the attorney whether or not the debt is collected.

NOTICE.  Notification of an act, event, or intention to act, such as notice of a hearing, notice of intent to sue, notice of a dishonored check, and so on. Also, the document giving notice.

NULLA BONA. Return of a writ of execution by the sheriff after a search has been made and no assets found.

OPEN ACCOUNT. A cause of action where the debtor has an account with the creditor and fails to bring the account current.

“OUT OF STATUTE.” A claim that cannot be pursued because it is past the statute of limitations. (See also, Statute of Limitations.)

PARTNERSHIP. A form of legal entity where two or more parties conduct business as co-owners.

PARTY. Any entity suing or being sued in a lawsuit, including the plaintiffs and defendants.

PERFECT. Recording or filing an instrument to provide notice to others, usually applied to a security interest under the Uniform Commercial Code.

PETITION. A formal motion for a particular type of relief, such as a petition for a writ of mandamus (See also, Motion.)

PLAINTIFF. The party who initiates a court action.

PLEADING. A document that makes a claim for relief, such as a Complaint or Counterclaim. Sometimes, colloquially used to refer to any document filed with a court, including motions.

POWER OF ATTORNEY. Written authorization allowing one person to act for another in a legal capacity. A power of attorney does not authorize a non-lawyer to engage in the practice of law.

PREFERENCE. In bankruptcy, the act of paying one creditor to the exclusion of or disproportionately to other creditors.

PREFERRED CREDITOR. A creditor holding a security interest or other priority status as to other creditors.

PREJUDICE. The inability to re-file a lawsuit after it is dismissed. A dismissal without prejudice means that the case can be re-filed.

PRETRIAL CONFERENCE. A hearing prior to trial, where the court clarifies or limits the issues to be considered at the trial, determines the admissibility of evidence to be used at trial, rules on pending motions, and so on.

PRIMA FACIE. The minimum proof necessary to establish a claim or defense, and requiring the other party to then rebut what was proven.

PRIORITY CREDITOR. In bankruptcy, a creditor whose claim is a type that is paid prior to the claims of other creditors, such as taxes, wages, and rents.

PRO RATA. An equal or proportionate share as compared to others of the group, usually in the distribution of assets or the amount of voluntary payments.

PRO SE. For oneself. One person who appears in a case pro se is litigating without the benefit of counsel.

PROBATE. A court proceeding to administer the estate of a deceased person. A will that is deemed to be valid is admitted to probate. An executor or administrator is appointed in a probate proceeding.

PROCEEDINGS SUPPLEMENTARY. A separate proceeding, after judgement is entered, in which the debtor appears before the court for an oral examination about their assets. The court then determines if any of those assets are subject to execution to satisfy the judgement.

PROCESS. A summons or writ requiring a person to appear in court.

PROCESS SERVER. A private individual authorized to serve process.

PROMISSORY NOTE. A written promise to pay back money lent.

PROOF OF CLAIM. A written statement by a creditor in a bankruptcy or probate proceeding, setting forth the amount due.

PROPRIETORSHIP. Ownership of a business, as in “sole proprietorship.”

QUID PRO QUO. The exchange of one thing for another. Latin for “this for that”.

REAL PROPERTY (REAL ESTATE). Land, as opposed to other tangible items, which are referred to as personal property.

RECEIVER. (1) A third party appointed to take possession of or manage property involved in litigation, such as a business. (2) The attorney an account is referred to for collection by a forwarder. Upon acceptance, the full attorney-client relationship exists between the receiver and the creditor.

RECEIVERSHIP. The condition of a having a receiver appointed to take possession of or manage property involved in litigation, such as a business.

RECLAMATION.  A term used in bankruptcy to denote a right or proceeding on the part of a person having title to property to recover the same, when it is in possession of the bankrupt, debtor, receiver or trustee.

RECORD. Filing a document with the proper party to give notice of the existence of that document. Some documents that are typically recorded include judgements, deeds, mortgages, mechanics liens, and so on.

REHABILITATION. In bankruptcy, a wage-earner’s plan, where the debtor keeps their property and pays a portion of a debt as set by the court.

REMITTANCE.  When a debtor makes payment to the attorney, the attorney puts the money into his account to clear. After it has cleared, the attorney makes a remittance to the forwarder, which is minus his commissions.

REORGANIZATION. In bankruptcy, a court-approved plan restructure a corporate debtor’s financial affairs.

REPLEVIN. A type of legal proceeding to recover possession of personal property unlawfully taken or unlawfully held. Usually filed by a secured creditor to recover possession of collateral or by a lessor to recover the leased property.

REQUEST FOR ADMISSIONS. A form of discovery where one party sends written statements to the other party for the purpose of admitting or denying their truthfulness. Requests not answered are deemed admitted. Requests admitted are deemed true for purposes of the case.

REQUEST FOR PRODUCTION. A form of discovery where one party sends a request for documents that the other party will provide.

RESCIND. To recall, void, or cancel an agreement. A rescinded agreement is treated as if it never existed.

RETAIL CLAIM. A claim where the debtor is an individual and that is based on a transaction for household, personal or family use. Also known as “retail claim.”

RETAINER. Money paid in advance to cover future anticipated expenses. A fee retainer is charged against the attorney’s fees. A cost retainer is charged against court costs.

RETURN. The report of the Sheriff or process server describing the results of an attempt at serving a court paper.

» Back to the top

SATISFACTION.  The discharge of an obligation by paying a party what is due.

SATISFACTION OF JUDGEMENT. A document created by the plaintiff, confirming that a previously awarded judgement is satisfied.

SCAM OPERATION. A business formed for the express purpose of obtaining credit, procuring product, and defrauding creditors by misrepresentation. The principals of a scam operation have no intention of paying the suppliers or running a genuine business.

SECURITY. An item in the possession of one entity, for which right and title are pledged to another entity in order to obtain credit.

SECURITY AGREEMENT. An agreement that creates a security interest in a particular time.

SECURITY INTEREST.  Any interest in property acquired by contract for the purpose of securing payment or performance of an obligation.

SERVICE. The process of formally delivering an order, process, or other document on an entity by a Sheriff or process server.

SETTLEMENT. An agreement to resolve a dispute, usually with the debtor paying a lesser amount or over an extended period of time.

SHERIFF. A county officer whose duties might range from law enforcement to service of process.

SKIP. This is when the debtor leaves the area in which he incurred the debt and cannot be located.

SKIP TRACING.  A service an attorney uses in order to locate the debtor.

SMALL CLAIMS. A special set of court rules for cases involving debts less than $5,000. In small claims cases, the defendant is not required to file an answer, the plaintiff must get court permission to send discovery to a pro se defendant, and so on.

SOLVENT. The ability of an entity to meet their financial obligations, i.e., having more assets than liabilities.

STATUS REPORT.  This is a regular report that the attorney must write to the forwarder informing him of each and every thing that is being done to collect the file.

STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS. The law that states the time within which a claim must be brought. The limitations period varies based on the type of claim. The limitations period begins to run from the date when the claim arises. (See also, Out of Statute.)

STAY. Stopping activity due to a law, order, or agreement. A case might be stayed because a bankruptcy is filed or the debtor is in active military service. Also known as an “abeyance.”

STIPULATION. (1) Any agreement between opposing parties in a lawsuit, such as a stipulation to admit a particular piece of evidence. (2) A written settlement agreement.

SUBORDINATE. To assign a claim a lower priority than other obligations, such as in a bankruptcy.

SUBPOENA. An order by the court, issued by an attorney, requiring a person’s appearance to give testimony.

SUBPOENA DUCES TECUM. A subpoena that also requires the person to produce documents.

SUBROGATION. The substitution of one person in place of another with reference to a claim against a third party. The new person “steps into the shoes” of the original claimant and may file suit on that claim. The most common form of subrogation is an insurance company who pays a loss to its insured. The insurance company is subrogated to the rights of its insured and may sue the party who caused the loss.

SUIT FILED.  This is when an attorney files a law suit in the local court to have the court rule on the validity of the claim.

SUMMARY JUDGEMENT. A judgement entered when there are no material issues of facts to be determined at trial, and when judgment may be entered as a matter of law. The absence of an issue of fact is usually established by filing affidavits, discovery responses, and exhibits.

SUMMONS. Notification to the defendant that a lawsuit has been filed against them and of the actions necessary to defend the lawsuit. A summons must be served on the defendant by a Sheriff or process server.

SUIT FEE. An attorney’s compensation for filing a lawsuit. A suit fee may be all contingent, partially contingent, entirely non-contingent, or simply a minimum flat fee.

SUIT REQUIREMENTS. Anything that must be sent by the creditor to file a lawsuit, such as a cost retainer, a suit fee, and all necessary exhibits.

TRIAL. The final hearing in a lawsuit, in which the parties present evidence, get testimony from witnesses, and make arguments to get the judge or jury to enter a judgement in their favor.

TRIAL DATE. Once the law suit is filed, the court sets a trial date when the matter will be heard by a judge.

TRUSTEE. (1) A person who holds the legal title to property for the benefit of another. (2) The person appointed or required by law to execute a trust.

TURNOVER PROCEEDING.  A summary proceeding authorized under the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act requiring a bankrupt to turn over property to a receiver or trustee for administration. It may also be used in connection with property belonging to the bankrupt held by a third person

USURY. An unlawfully high interest rate. Charging a usurious interest rate might result in the waiver of all interest or additional penalties.

VENUE. The county in which the court is located. A lawsuit must be filed in a proper venue, which can be based on where the defendant resides, where payment was due, where the contract was entered into, and so on.

WAIVER. The relinquishment of right or benefit. A waiver may result from an express agreement, by the act of a party, or by failure to take appropriate action when required.

WORTHLESS CHECK. A check that has been dishonored. Also known as a “bad check.”

WRIT. An order requiring the sheriff, clerk, or other court officer to implement a court order, do a specific act, or cease doing a specific act.

WRIT OF BODILY ATTACHMENT. A writ directing the Sheriff to arrest a person for being in contempt of court.


NOTE: This glossary is not intended to provide all of the definitions of a particular word.  It is intended to provide simplified common definitions for use by non-attorneys.  This list of terms should not be relied on as legal advice.  If questions arise, consult an attorney.