BYU students work to help with debt collection lawsuits

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A group of law students at Brigham Young University is working to help Utah residents with their debt collection lawsuits.

There are about 70,000 debt cases a year in Utah, many of which are for $100 to $200, KUER-FM radio reported.

But people often end up spending more than that because they go through the process without any legal help because they can't afford it.

Salt Lake City lawyer Kimball Parker is leading a group of nine students in a semester-long project to work on a technology solution that can provide legal assistance free of charge.

"In other classes, you talk about problems and you theorize about how to solve them. But it doesn't go anywhere past that," Parker said. "This is probably the only class where you are actually trying to address a problem in a big way."

The details of the technology solution won't be released until next year, but it should be available to the public soon, KUER-FM reported.

Nate Alder, a commissioner for the Utah State Bar, thinks innovations for the group will get green lights from everyone in the legal community and could possibly change the system.

In that system, a debtor has to file a response to a lawsuit within 21 days, Parker said. If a response is not filed within that time, the debtor loses the lawsuit automatically and has to pay whatever the lawsuit says.

The debtor will receive a notice or summons that requires a response, but many ignore it beyond the 21 days. At that point, if the amount owed was $10 but the notice says $1000, now the amount owed is $1000.

Parker said the group, which is called LawX, wants to change the system.

"The goal of LawX year after year is to make Utah the state with the most accessible laws in the nation," Parker said. "We are going to chip away at that year after year."

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