If a debt collector got a judgment against someone but the person was never served, is that valid?
AI.LAW gave this overview:
In general, under U.S. law, a judgment obtained without proper service of process is not valid. This is because the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to due process, which includes the right to be notified of a lawsuit and the opportunity to defend oneself. If a person was not properly served, they were denied their right to due process.
However, the specifics can vary by jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case. For example, some jurisdictions may consider service valid if reasonable attempts were made to locate and serve the person, even if they were not actually served.
If you find yourself in this situation, you should consider the following steps:
1. Gather Evidence: Collect any evidence that shows you were not properly served. This could include affidavits from people who live with you, surveillance footage, or postal records.
2. Consult with an Attorney: If you haven't already, consult with an attorney who specializes in debt collection cases. They can provide advice tailored to your specific situation and jurisdiction.
3. Motion to Vacate: If you can prove you were not properly served, your attorney may suggest filing a motion to vacate the judgment. This is a request to the court to nullify the judgment on the grounds that you were not given the opportunity to defend yourself.
4. Prepare for a Possible New Trial: If the motion to vacate is successful, the debt collector may choose to serve you properly and start the lawsuit process again. Be prepared to defend yourself in court.
Remember, this is general advice and the specifics can vary greatly depending on your jurisdiction and the details of your case. Always consult with a legal professional for advice tailored to your situation.
Mistakes to Avoid:
1. Not Verifying the Debt: Before anything else, verify the debt. It's possible that the debt isn't yours, or the amount is incorrect.
2. Ignoring the Issue: Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. If you believe you were never served, you should take immediate action to address the issue.
3. Not Understanding Your Rights: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) provides consumers with certain protections against debt collectors. You have the right to dispute the debt and request verification.
4. Not Seeking Legal Advice: If a judgment has been made against you and you were not served, it's crucial to seek legal advice. This is a complex issue that requires understanding of specific laws and procedures.
5. Not Checking the Statute of Limitations: Each state has a statute of limitations for how long a debt collector can sue to collect a debt. If the debt is old, it might be outside the statute of limitations.
6. Not Documenting Everything: Keep a record of all communications with the debt collector. This can be crucial evidence if you need to dispute the debt or the judgment.
7. Not Filing a Motion to Vacate: If you were not properly served, you might be able to have