I have a bill from a health care provider that I did go to but they are charging me for services I did not receive. They will not agree that they did not provide these services and continue to bill me. I believe I would win in small claims court, but I am afraid that they will report me to the credit reporting agencies at just the wrong time and then take too long to sue me. How can I force them to either take it to court or drop the charges?


I doubt this is possible. They have exactly as long as the law allows for them to bring suit against you, and there's nothing you can do to shorten that window. If you could, you might stipulate that they sue you within the next 6 hours or drop the case entirely. The law stipulates a "reasonable" period of time for them to bring suit. If they do wind up suing you, damaging your credit, and ultimately losing the case, you might be able to recover some damages if it affected your ability to get a loan, for example.

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    You might even be able to sue them if they decide not to go to court but still damage your credit. However, that's uncertain in more than one way. – Tim Lymington Apr 18 '18 at 15:56

Depending on your jurisdiction, you may be able to file a declaratory judgment action in small claims court. You'd effectively be asking the court to conclude that the contract(s) you made with the provider entitle them to X amount rather than Y.

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  • Most states allow you to file declaratory judgment actions, but usually not in small claims court. So, it would be prohibitively expensive unless the excess charges are huge. There may also be an arbitration and/or mediation clause in the contact with the insurer or the doctor. – ohwilleke Apr 18 '18 at 21:03
  • Luckily, you can do it here in Ohio. More luckily, I have not needed to. – bdb484 Apr 18 '18 at 21:06

Write to them and state that you deny liability for the alleged charge. Advise them that they are not permitted by law to continue to contact you about the alleged debt or to refer the matter to a debt collector or credit reporting agency unless and until they prove the debt in a court of competent jurisdiction. If you fell provocative, suggest the courthouse that would be mist convenient for you.

If they do any of the things they are not permitted to do, refer them to your jurisdiction’s consumer watchdog.

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  • Is there a law that allows you to require them to prove the debt in court before contacting you? – bdb484 Apr 18 '18 at 23:57
  • @bdb484: Of course they may initiate contact. The point here is that once the debt is disputed, the claimant can indeed be referred to court. – MSalters Apr 19 '18 at 10:00

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