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Highlight Updates Costs of Litigation

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s survey of third-party debt collectors, it cost between $35 and $499 to file a collection lawsuit, court service fees cost $10 to $50, the additional cost if the case went to trial was between $500 and $2000, and a garnishment cost the collector $30 per transaction.351 In a study of Utah attorneys using a methodology developed by the National Center for State Courts, “the median cost per side to litigate a debt collection case through trial was $2698.”352

ProPublica has argued that the lower cost of filing collection lawsuits in some locations is one of the factors contributing to the high number of lawsuits353 or judgments354 in those locations.


  • 351 Consumer Fin. Protection Bur., Study of third-party debt collection operations 34 (July 2016).

  • 352 Paula Hannaford-Agor, et al., The Landscape of Civil Litigation in State Courts 25 (National Center for State Courts, 2015), citing Paula Hannaford-Agor and Cynthia Lee, Utah: Impact of the Revisions to Rule 26 on Discovery Practice in the Utah District Courts 46–48 (Apr. 2015).

  • 353 Paul Kiel, For Nebraska’s Poor, Get Sick and Get Sued, ProPublica, Apr. 28, 2016 (noting that Nebraska, with its $45 filing fee, had 79,000 lawsuits in 2013, compared to 30,000 in New Mexico where filing fees started at $77—despite similar populations).

  • 354 Paul Kiel, So Sue Them: What We’ve Learned About the Debt Collection Lawsuit Machine, ProPublica, May 5, 2016 (illustrating a significantly higher rate of judgments in Essex County, New Jersey than in Cook County, Illinois; noting that it was three times more expensive to file a collection lawsuit in Cook County).