For Nebraska’s Poor, Get Sick and Get Sued

Cheap court fees and looser rules make suing over medical debts as small as $60 easy. Every year Nebraska collection agencies file lawsuits by the tens of thousands.
Investigative (Nebraska)

Paul Kiel
ProPublica, Daily Beast
April 28, 2016

Tags: Consumer Protection, Debt Collection

Organizations mentioned/involved: Legal Aid of Nebraska, National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)


Nebraska’s flood of suits isn’t merely a reflection of residents’ inability to pay their bills. About 79,000 debt collection lawsuits were filed in Nebraska courts in 2013 alone, according to a ProPublica analysis. In New Mexico, a state with a population, like Nebraska’s, of around two million, about 30,000 suits were filed. Yet by virtually any measure, households in Nebraska are significantly better off than those in New Mexico: Income is higher. Poverty is lower. And fewer families fall behind on their bills.

The reason for the difference is simple. Suing someone in Nebraska is cheaper and easier.

The cost to file a lawsuit in Nebraska is $45. In New Mexico, where suits are filed at about one-third the rate as in Nebraska, the fee for smaller debts starts at $77.