How to get Discovery in a debt collection case in civil court

Also in
Show Endnotes
Greater Boston Legal Services

Discovery” is how a plaintiff and a defendant ask for information from each other. Discovery can help you get documents and evidence to support your case before you go to court. There are 4 common ways to do Discovery. You can use more than one.

Remember, the Plaintiff must prove 2 things to win a debt collection lawsuit:

  1. You owe the debt, and
  2. The amount of the debt they claim you owe is correct.

Ways to get Discovery

Request for Production of Documents

You can ask the Plaintiff to give you copies of all the documents they have to prove their case against you. This includes bills, their ledger, and/or their contract with you. Their ledger is their records of what you owe them. The Plaintiff must respond to the request for production of documents within 30 days of when you “serve” (mail) the request.

See a sample Request for Production of Documents [PDF].

Request for Interrogatories

Interrogatories are a list of written questions that must be answered. You can ask the Plaintiff to answer up to 30 questions in writing about your case and the debt, like:

  • ”When was the charge-off date of the debt?”
    • The charge-off date is when the creditor decides an overdue debt is unlikely to be paid back and may be sent to collections. It does not mean you no longer owe the debt.
  • “How long has the company owned the right to collect the debt?”
  • “Who did you buy this debt from and when did you buy it?”
  • "How much did you pay to have the right to collect this debt?"
  • "Are you getting paid to collect this debt? Who is paying you? How much?"
  • “What is the interest rate used to calculate the debt?”
  • “Has the interest rate changed over time?”
  • Any other relevant questions you think would be helpful in your case.

The Plaintiff must give you responses to the request for interrogatories within 45 days of when you mailed the request.

See a sample Request for Interrogatories [PDF].

Request for Admissions

An “admission” is when a person says that a fact is true. You can ask the Plaintiff to tell the court that a fact is true in writing, to make your case simple and clear. For example, if the Plaintiff does not provide account statements showing exactly how much you owe, you can ask the Plaintiff, “Admit that you do not have documents that prove the amount of the debt in question.”

The Plaintiff has 30 days to deny or object to the statements. If the Plaintiff does not respond to your request for admissions within 30 days, then they have admitted each of the statements in your requests. The court considers that the Plaintiff admits all the statements are true if they do not deny or object to them. 

This is very important because if you wrote in your request for admissions, “Plaintiff admits that it is not entitled to collect this debt,” and the Plaintiff does not respond within 30 days, then they have admitted that the statement is true. You can tell the judge that the Plaintiff has admitted they cannot collect the debt.

See a sample Request for Admissions [PDF].


A deposition is like an interview where you or your attorney directly question a witness. You have the right to ask for a deposition where the Plaintiff must answer your questions in person, under oath. If you need this type of discovery, you probably need a lawyer. Here’s how to find legal help near you.


You must respond to all Discovery requests from the Plaintiff

As the Defendant, you do not have to make Discovery requests. But if you think Discovery will help your case, you can use any of the tools above.

How to send Discovery requests to the Plaintiff

Fill out the form(s).

Look over the sample forms for the Discovery method(s) you want to use and edit them to fit your case. Sign each of the forms you want to use.

Each PDF file has instructions, an example of a filled-out form, and a blank sample form.

Fill out the certificate of service.

Look at the “certificate of service” on each form. Whenever you send a document to the court, you must also send it to the Plaintiff and their attorney. The certificate of service is where you swear to the court that you have sent the Plaintiff copies of the documents.

  • Find the name and address of the Plaintiff’s attorney on the complaint they sent to you. Write the same name and address on the certificate of service.
  • Write in the date you will be mailing the package of papers.
Make copies of the papers.

Make 3 copies of the papers you are sending for: 

  1. the Plaintiff,
  2. the Plaintiff’s attorney, and
  3. yourself.
Send the copies.

Send 1 copy of the package of papers to the Plaintiff and 1 to their attorney. You can mail the copy first-class mail at USPS, or hand deliver the package in person. 

After you request discovery, the Plaintiff should send a package of information to you. This information should be the Plaintiff’s response to the discovery requests you sent. 


Was this page helpful?