Medical debt is a rising issue in this country thanks to rising healthcare costs & few options for healthcare coverage. One survey found that over 79 million Americans have medical debt or problems with medical bills.
Broken bones. Heart attack. Coronavirus. These are scary medical conditions that can be very expensive and lead to medical debt. Medical debt is scary, and high medical bills can result in abusive collection tactics and potential hospital lawsuits.
And you may have heard about this really confusing question: can you ever be arrested for a consumer debt? The answer is no. But can you ever be arrested for failure to appear in court after being served with a “show cause” order after a judgment for consumer debt was entered against you? Yes, we have seen it happen many times. We have represented people who were arrested for a body attachment stemming from a consumer debt.
In Maryland you could be subject to a “body attachment” and brought before a judge to “show cause” – explain yourself — for failing to follow court previous orders to appear in court (typically for failure to appear for an oral examination in aid of execution). While debtors prisons technically don’t exist in this country, a body attachment for “show cause” or contempt can lead to your arrest over a debt issue. Once arrested, you are brought before a judge to explain why you failed to appear in court previously.
Let’s look at this a bit closer.
Medical Debt Arrests & Body Attachment Warrants
Debtors prisons, aka a prison for those with unpaid debts, are technically illegal in the United States. But once a judgment is entered against a person, the creditors and courts then have tremendous power to “discover” where your assets are located (bank accounts, jewelry, cars, wages, etc.). If a creditor asks for and receives a “show cause” for a judgment debtor’s failure to appear in court for an “oral examination in aid of execution” then the creditor may ask for and the court may issue a “body attachment” directding the sheriff to bring the judgment debtor before the court to explain and answer the questions.
Struggling with medical debt?
The Holland Law Firm’s experienced medical debt attorneys can help.
Peter Holland from the Holland Law Firm recently spoke on this issue with Jack Karp from Legal360.
Peter says that, “Technically, someone arrested under these warrants isn’t being arrested for failing to pay their debt but for contempt of court. This, says Peter, creates, “de facto debtors prison in many instances.“
While technically people aren’t arrested for their debt, it’s a result of their debt that they’re being arrested with an order for a “body attachment.”
Many times the debtors don’t know they owe money or they weren’t given notice of the court proceedings. While some states limit the use of body attachment warrants for medical debt collection, this practice is still in use today.
Learn more about Peter’s thoughts on medical debt arrest & body attachment warrants in the Holland Law Firm’s latest newsletter. You can also read more about the issue of medical debt arrests in Peter’s conversation with Jack Karp here.
And if you are facing this or any similar issue related to medical debt — or any other kind of debt — contact The Holland Law Firm today. We represent people being sued for debt, and we have represented judgment debtors who were the subject of an open “body attachment” order. Don’t give up. Give us a call.