Archive for June, 2012

I was not properly served, so can I file something to dismiss the case?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Question: I did not pay one of my credit cards, because it was too much for me.  Now, I received in the mail a summons and complaint for that credit card debt.  No one in my home knows anything about this, so I don’t believe that this is proper substitute service. Can I file something in Superior Court about not being served? Can I get the case dismissed or put off a long time?

My response:
Whenever the defendant located within California has not been properly served with the lawsuit, in addition to their six options that I explained in the first video on my home page, the person could file a motion to quash.  There is no check-the-box form for this motion in California Superior Court.  Motions to quash are unusual.  People should either file a response to the debt collection lawsuit or exercise one of their other options, such as settling the case.

If the defendant or his/her attorney files a motion to quash and properly presents the Superior Court with the lack of valid service, the result is often the same: the court can grant the motion to quash and some time later, the lawsuit is served properly on the defendant, who then has the given number of days to file a response in the case.  The Judge could also ask the attorney or defendant in court at the hearing: “When do you want to file a response to this lawsuit?”  In other words, you’ve won the battle, but lost the war, since a response to the complaint must still be filed and the case will proceed about the same, as if service has now been properly effected.

The motion to quash is really only an effective means of stopping a lawsuit if the case was filed against an out of state defendant, who has no contacts in California, which would mean the California Superior Court lacks jurisdiction for such lawsuit. Then the motion to quash would have a substantial effect on the outcome of the case.  For this reason, a motion to quash should be reserved for cases where the defendant is out of state, with no connections to California.

Thus, when people post on or ask elsewhere about not being properly served, I typically refer them to my blog posting on making their next steps count.  Defendants should respect the normal time to respond in court to the lawsuit as about the same, if they wish to avoid a default judgment and preserve all of their six options, noted in my first video.

Robert Stempler
Twitter @RStempler