March 8, 2011

Credit card default actions contribute to 23.5% increase in past five years

A faltering economy has contributed to a spike in civil litigation in the Westchester County Supreme Court in recent years.  Figures released by the Office of Westchester County Clerk Timothy C. Idoni today indicate that the total number of civil lawsuits has climbed over five years, from 22,739 in 2005 to 28,086 in 2010 or 23.5 percent.  The Office of the Westchester County Clerk accepts various civil case types including contract, foreclosure, matrimonial, tax certiorari and tort actions.  While in 2010, there was a slight dip in the number of filings, overall, the numbers are significantly higher than they were five years ago.

Civil actions commenced in the Westchester County Supreme Court, 2005-2010

Year 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Actions 22,739 25,332 26,730 28,035 29,132 28,086

In particular, civil lawsuits stemming from failure to pay credit card debt have increased dramatically in recent years.  “While our focus has often been on foreclosure and tax certiorari actions increasing in number over the last few years, suits to recover consumer credit debt have more quietly swelled our file room,” shared County Clerk Idoni who serves as the Clerk of the Supreme Court in Westchester County.  “Our staff has shared that attorneys are filing as many actions in a day as they had in a week just a few years ago,” he continued. 

The increase in consumer credit actions in Westchester follows national trend and reflects the damage done by the Great Recession.  Westchester residents who lost jobs, saw reductions in income, experienced increases in property taxes or struggled to pay mortgages or health insurance may have turned to offers of easy credit to provide relief.  And when these residents fell behind on their credit card payments, lenders filed suit.

When actions are commenced in the Office of the Westchester County Clerk, filers are asked to indicate the type of case they are filing.  Based upon that indication, the five most common case types filed are contract, tax certiorari, matrimonial, foreclosure and tort actions. 

Change In Filing Volume by Action Type, 2005-2010

Case Type 2005 Commencements 2010 Commencements Percentage Change
Contract 7.633 13,665 + 79%
Tax Certiorari 3,249 4,151 + 28%
Matrimonial 3,060 3,263 + 6.6%
Foreclosure 1.083 2,485 + 129.5%
Tort 2,324 1,751 - 25%

The Legal Division of the Office of the Westchester County Clerk is located at 110 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in White Plains and is open between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays.  For more information on our Legal Division, please call 995-3070 or visit our website at