Sometimes, a creditor’s lawyer will file an action against a borrower as a “sworn account.” These are basically lawsuits on steroids, but they aren’t as common as you’d expect.
This device is allowed by Tenn. Code Ann. § 24-5-107, titled “Sworn accounts; denials,” which states that an action that is filed “with the affidavit of the plaintiff or its agent to its correctness…is conclusive against the party sought to be charged, unless that party on oath denies the account…” There’s an exception under § 24-5-107(b), that allows a court to accept an oral denial of the sworn account.
The reason behind sworn accounts is to make the debt collection process easier, especially on debts where there is no dispute. It shifts the burden of denial to the defending party.
Some courts treat these like a “procedural trap;” faced with a properly authenticated and sworn account, the defendant who doesn’t present a proper sworn response will automatically lose. One Court has said: “[t]he statute is quite clear that in the absence of a sworn denial the plaintiff is entitled to judgment on the sworn account.”
But, when a sworn denial is filed, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to support his claims with actual evidence at the trial, i.e. the sworn account becomes a moot point.
So, when and why would you proceed on a sworn account?
Primarily, I file them when I’m before courts that don’t have a “free continuance” Local Rule, like Davidson County. That way, if I show up and have my witness with me at court, I’ve got some proof of my claims with a sworn account.
Some lawyers file them hoping to set the procedural trap, hoping the other side will neglect to file a “Sworn” Answer, but that seems sneaky (but, it’s supported by the caselaw).
Other than the extra step involved (preparing and filing an Affidavit), there’s not any downside to proceeding with a Sworn Account.