We get many calls about judgments and Statute of Limitations in Pennsylvania. Most people say “the judgment is over 5 years old, so why are they still trying to collect?” The error there is the mixed combination of legal theories. A statute of limitations applies to the amount of time that a creditor has to sue you… that is, to file a lawsuit against you. In most credit card cases in Pennsylvania, the SOL is 4 years. There are a few companies that have a 3 year SOL as well. If the creditor sues you within that 4 (or 3) year window, then they have met the statute of limitations.
If the creditor prevails then they obtain a judgment. A judgment has two different life cycles. There is a 5 year cycle and a 20 year cycle. The 5 year cycle is one that comes up often. A creditor will reinstate or reissue a judgment. The client will contact us and say “what’s going on?”. Well, the creditor is simply renewing its judgment against you. Its not that it expired as against you, but, it could lose its place in line amongst other judgment holders. In other words, if I obtain a judgment against you and sit on it for 6 years, then another person obtains a judgment against you, their judgment will take priority position as against my judgment because I didn’t renew it. If I renew it every 5 years, then it maintains its place as the number 1 judgment against you. If the creditor fails to renew the judgment every 5 years, it does not “go away”… it simply loses its place in line.
The other cycle for judgments in PA is for 20 years. This is akin to a statute of limitations. The judgment is valid and collectible against you for 20 years. If the creditor fails to collect on the judgment within the 20 year period, they will be forever unable to collect after that time.