Archive for September, 2012

Are Capital One’s debt collection lawyers playing fast and loose against consumers?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Question: I heard that a big lawsuit was filed recently in New York (ABC News), because Capital One’s debt collection lawyers were illegally harassing people for the money, allegedly.  Is this also happening in California, from what you’ve heard?

My response:
Yes, I have been counsel in a fair number of cases recently in which California collection law firms contacts were harassing of the consumer.  In particular, my clients complained of receiving many calls at work, though the employer prohibits personal calls and the consumer told the collection agent to stop.  Also, too many and too much harassing calls to the consumer, by the in-house collectors. Another complaint I have seen is filing lawsuits after the statute of limitations has expired, which I discuss in other blog postings, because they fail to find out when the period expires.

I have also seen debt collection law firms jump the gun in trying to get a default judgment. Many debt collection law firms find that they’d much rather try to enforce a default judgment, than have a defendant who opposes the lawsuit. Thus, the firm may try to file the request for entry of default as soon as possible, to be within a day or two of expiration of the consumer’s time to file a response to the credit card lawsuit. Perhaps the papers cross in the mail, but for a debt collection law firm to be this eager–in my mind–reflects a disregard for the consumer’s rights, under California procedural law and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). It also is a violation, because the collection agency ends up contacting my clients directly, which violates the FDCPA and the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Clearly, these collection law firms must adopt better procedures, so that these violations do not occur. Sadly, the economic downturn has created a more aggressive debt collection environment and attracted inexperienced lawyers into serving as debt collectors, without having the minimum procedures to comply with the FDCPA. Thus, violations of the FDCPA are more likely to occur.

There is one bright spot in all of this and that is the increased use of recording and monitoring debt collection calls. If more calls are recorded and monitored, then at least there is a better chance that a harassing collection agent can be disciplined or fired, before their victims are ready to file a class action lawsuit against the debt collection lawyer.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

They did not say, “You’ve been served,” so can I just ignore the Summons Form SUM-100?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Question: The Summons (Citation Judicial), Form SUM-100, that came with the lawsuit for an unpaid credit card debt has a handwritten date to the left of the Clerk’s signature line.  The summons does not have a date at the bottom, where it says “Notice to Person Served.”  Box 1 is checked for individual defendant.  Someone handed it to me a week ago, but they did not say anything, such as “You’ve been served!” I just received a letter from the attorney firm that says I should call them to settle, because I was served.  Can I just ignore this, until they come back? If I must respond to it, when does my 30 days expire?

My response:
The date on the summons next to the clerk’s signature is the date the summons was endorsed by the Clerk of the Court, typically the same date as the collection complaint was filed. Thus, the summons date should match the complaint filing date.  It would be pretty rare for a lawsuit to be served on a defendant the same day that it is filed with the clerk. Thus, the filing date is usually not used to calculate the due date of the defendant’s response in court.

The date when you (the defendant) must file a response in court is determined by the date and method of delivery to you of the lawsuit papers.  For instance, if the defendant was personally served (meaning the summons and complaint were handed personally to the defendant), then he or she has 30 days from that date to file a written response in court.  If not personally served, but a method known as substitute service was used, then the due date is 40 days from the mailing date, which is why I recommend people save even the envelope, to keep the postmark date on the envelope.

In California, the process server need not say anything if the defendant is being personally served.  The movies about someone saying, “You’ve been served,” either reflect laws of other states or are entertaining in their drama.  Only where the person is not the defendant, should the process server explain that they are being given the legal papers for a lawsuit for the defendant and those papers should be given to the defendant right away.  Problems arise, such as a default judgment, when the recipient receives the papers, but fails to promptly give them to the defendant.

I have on the home page of my web site, a video of understanding your options to consider, before filing a DIY response yourself, against these professional debt collection lawyers.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

How long to file papers in court, after receiving the summons and complaint via U.S. Mail?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Question: No process server ever approached me, but gave the summons and debt collection complaint to my wife.  A few days later, another copy arrived in the mail. I still have the envelope with the postmark. Do I still need to respond within 30 days and from when?

My response:
Under the California Code of Civil Procedure, which governs in Superior Court cases, the defendant must file their response in court not later than 30 calendar days from the date of personal service, which occurs when the server hands the summons and collection complaint personally to the defendant.

Substitute Service occurs after satisfying due diligence in trying several times to perform personal service on the defendant.  After due diligence, the process server hands the summons and collection complaint to an adult member of the defendant’s household or the person who appears to be in charge at the defendant’s place of business, then mails another copy of the summons and collection complaint to the defendant at that same address.

In this case, the process server has performed Substitute Service on you, which adds 10 calendar days, making a total of 40 days from the date of mailing for the defendant to file his or her response in court.

Some defendants receive only a copy of the summons and collection complaint by U.S. Mail and no one at their home or place of business advised them that they were served.  In those cases, you should still go on the premise that you have only 40 calendar days from the mailing date in which to file a response in court, to prevent a default judgment from being entered. Please see other blog postings about default judgments.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler

Should I hide from the process server or refuse to sign for the lawsuit papers?

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Question: I found out that a process server is trying to find me to hand me lawsuit papers. If I hide and stay away from home, so that he cannot serve me, will they eventually dismiss the lawsuit? What if I refuse to sign for it?

My Response:
That’s not how service of process works.  After the debt collection lawsuit has been filed, the court will set a return date by which the proof of service (“POS”) must be filed. The POS states that the process server handed to the defendant a copy of the summons, complaint, and any other documents, including the date, time, and location where this occurred.  It does not require that the defendant sign for the papers, nor does it require any other proof, such as video or a photo.

If the process server goes to the defendant’s home, but was unable to serve the defendant there, he or she can hand it to anyone age 18 years or older at the residence, then mail an extra copy to the residence. The POS that is filed with the court must state the name of the person served and each of the previous attempts to serve the defendant at home, and state the date on which the documents were mailed to the residence.  This is known as substitute service (aka “sub-service’), and it is a valid manner of serving a credit card collection lawsuit in California.

If a POS cannot be filed due to the process server being unable to locate defendants, either their residence or where they work, the plaintiff’s collection attorney will often ask for more time, because their process server has been trying to serve the defendants, who are evading service or not yet located.  If the process server has performed the proper steps and still unable to find the individual defendants to serve them, the court can allowed service by publication in a newspaper of general circulation.

Thus, hiding or evading a process server rarely results in the case being dismissed, due to lack of service.  Beware that sometimes the process server files a POS saying that they served the defendant, even that was not so, which can result in a default judgment being entered when the defendant did not know.  Please see my blog on no service but a default judgment was requested.

Robert Stempler
www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
Twitter @RStempler