The coronavirus crisis has caused a statewide emergency in Pennsylvania that has markedly affected many judicial functions. In March, the state Supreme Court authorized local courts to impose emergency restrictions on their operations, including those relating to debt collection.
Some of these local orders put a hold on efforts of creditors to recover debts through the courts. The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas stopped all trials and sheriff’s sales. Many other courts took similar measures, in whole or in part, throughout the state. Although the state Supreme Court ended the judicial emergency effective June 1, 2020, it gave local courts leeway to maintain some restrictions. Allegheny County lifted the ban on non-jury trials and sheriff’s sales but retained the halt of jury trials until the end of August. Beaver County has continued to postpone sheriff’s sales until August and Westmoreland County continues to prohibit all non-essential court proceedings, including non-emergency civil trials for damages, until further notice.
There are a number of strategies an attorney who handles business-to-business collections work can use to maximize your chances of recovering your debts. Where you can’t bring a case to trial, your attorney can still make a demand for payment, bring suit, conduct discovery and try to negotiate a settlement of the claim, as circumstances require, until the court is ready to schedule trials again.
If you have a collection matter in a county that does authorize trials and executions of judgments to proceed, your attorney can push ahead in those cases. It is important to realize, however, that the problems that led to the emergency measures still remain. With debtors in distress due to job losses or other financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, aggressive collection efforts may prove unfruitful. Alternatives to trial such as agreements on debt forbearance and rescheduling can be more effective than forging ahead with litigation.
At Feldstein Grinberg Lang & McKee, P.C. in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we have ample experience representing businesses seeking to collect accounts receivable and other debts throughout Pennsylvania. If you need counsel on collection problems during the COVID-19 crisis, call us at 412-471-0677 or contact us online to schedule a conference.