NM courts allow debt and money lawsuits to be resolved online

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 9/13/19

New Mexico residents looking to collect a debt or who have been hit with a debt lawsuit can now turn to their computer or mobile device to reach a resolution – without having to appear in a …

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NM courts allow debt and money lawsuits to be resolved online

Posted

New Mexico residents looking to collect a debt or who have been hit with a debt lawsuit can now turn to their computer or mobile device to reach a resolution – without having to appear in a courthouse.

A pilot program for an online dispute resolution system tested from April 2018 through April 2019 in the 2nd, 6th and 9th judicial districts went live for all state magistrate and district courts on Sept. 1.

Taos District Court Judge Jeff McElroy, who helped champion the new system, said debt and money-due lawsuits comprise a large percentage of cases filed in New Mexico courts.

According to a study conducted during the test period, a total of 31,000 such suits were filed in the state during the pilot period. In Taos, 118 cases were filed in district court and 101 were filed in magistrate court. Common examples include when a bank files a suit over credit card debt or when a hospital files a suit against a patient who has an unpaid medical bill.

Resolving such cases through a trial can consume a great deal of time and other resources for plaintiffs, defendants and court personnel.

McElroy said the new system should help relieve some of that burden.

“Online Dispute Resolution allows New Mexico Courts to better serve the public,” McElroy said in a press release from the Administrative Office of the Courts. “Companies like eBay have used online dispute resolution for many years for disputes between sellers and buyers. Our courts recognize it is difficult to take time off from work to travel to a court hearing. A successful settlement using Online Dispute Resolution avoids the need to appear in a courtroom and costs less than going to trial.”

It works like this: If you file a debt suit or if a suit is filed against you, the state’s online system will generate an email to be sent to both parties, allowing them access to the New Mexico Online Dispute Resolution Center. The system then asks questions of each party about how the suit can be resolved. An offer and a counteroffer are exchanged, and if an agreement is reached, the system will automatically generate a settlement document that will be filed in court.

During the first two weeks of when the system is activated, parties will also have the opportunity to call upon the services of a trained online mediator who can assist in negotiations electronically. According to the AOC, information exchanged in the system prior to a resolution remains confidential. Parties have a 30-day window to reach a resolution through the online system, after which the case moves forward through the traditional court process.

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