Archive for the ‘Collection Defense’ Category

Contesting False Service of Process & Preventing Sewer Service

Posted on: July 28th, 2018 by eHall

Contesting False Service of Process & Preventing Sewer Service


“Sewer service” is a problem in Washington State as well as the rest of the country.  I would estimate about 90% of my clients were either falsely served or improperly served based on client interviews.

False service is the hardest to deal with because you did not even know it happened.  All of a sudden there is a garnishment and the money you might use to try to vacate the default judgment has been taken and the total amount is so low its almost not worth fighting.

Improper service is easier to handle if you find out about it.  Usually it is flung at your doorstep, left with a neighbor, or sent to an old address and someone tells you about it.  But generally you will constructively know about the lawsuit and have a chance to respond.

So lets start at the basics.  Proper service is governed by CR 4 (court rule 4) and RCW 4.28.080 (Revised Code of Washington) in Washington State Court and FRCP 4 (Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).  Other specialty courts and administrative courts may have different procedures but these are the big two.  As most collection claims are in state court and that is where sewer service is most rampant, lets start with CR 4 and RCW 4.28.080.  In short, to serve a person personally, you must serve

“The defendant personally, or by leaving a copy of the summons at the house of his or her usual abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then resident therein.”

See RCW 4.28.080(16).  Obviously not given the pleadings to a person at all or by just leaving them at the residence would not meet this definition.

The problem is a matter of evidence.  If a process server is willing to commit perjury, the court will assume this third party professional with no real skin in the game is telling the truth.  So if you happen to be inside your home with lights on and car parked and no alibi that you were anywhere else (such as a toll receipt, restaurant receipt, etc), you lose.  However, there are ways to fight this.

Techniques to prevent sewer service in the first place:

  • Big dogs with closed yard defense:  If you have a house where there are big dogs, a closed fence/gate, and no one is getting in without getting chewed up, take some pictures and make a declaration.  Most judges would understand that service likely did not occur.
  • Drop camera: Install a camera on your front door facing the entrance/egress to your property.  Save the data and check daily, weekly, or monthly depending on the size of your data storage and combine with frequent checks on to see if any cases have been filed.  This is a fairly paranoid, but security conscious, approach that is best used when you know service of process is imminent.  The positive is not only can service issues be raised but an additional potential counterclaim against the server who hopefully is licensed and bonded.
  • Secured entrance/doorman defense:  Similar to the big dog defense.  This is easier to defeat as you can usually just buzz every resident and someone will let you in or if the doorman is not particularly vigilant they will let a server in.  Lazy servers will just leave it with anyone with a vague description and often times this does not meet the standard for proper service.


Evidence to Contest Service

  • Alibi that is provable with admissible evidence that is hard to contradict: Things like a work schedule, toll receipt, restaurant receipt, or even a declaration from a very neutral third party can all prove the service was false.  Unfortunately, if it is just your word vs. the process server’s word, you will likely lose so you need evidence that is hard to contradict that would support your version of events.  If the declaration is from a friend, a spouse, or someone not seemingly neutral, that may or may not work.
  • Incorrect description:  Often times a driver’s license description is wildly out of date.  Maybe you were 5’10” and 180 lbs with brown hair and no facial hair when you first got your license at age 16 but now you are 6’4″ and 240 lbs with dyed purple hair and a purple braided beard.  Things like wrong race, wrong gender, wrong descriptions can go far and the more variance from the truth the better.
  • Wrong address: If you were served at an old address and a simple skip trace should have turned up your proper address, that is often a defense.


Should you vacate the default judgment or counterclaim for consumer protection violations?

Maybe.  Even if service is improper, contesting it can often ramp up fees on both sides and could cost you more.  If your evidence is more of error (like wrong address) than fraud (where they fake even showing up) or if the amount in question is very low, it trends towards not vacating or counterclaiming.  But if the fraud is obvious or egregious and the amount is large, the math usually favors contesting and fighting.

Prohibited Communications From Debt Collectors

Posted on: February 16th, 2014 by evil0511

Prohibited Communications From Debt Collectors


Debt collectors like to harass you.  They reach out to your friends, family, and do whatever they can to embarass you into paying regardless of whether the debt is valid or not.  However, there are limitations.  One limitation is that they cannot send written communications to you that have any words or symbols that indicate that they are debt collectors pursuant to 15 USC 1692(b)(5) of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act:

A debt collector may not use any language or symbol on any envelope or in the contents of any communication effected by the mails or telegram that indicates that the debt collector is in the debt collection business or that the communication relates to the collection of a debt

If a debt collector violates this, they may be liable for statutory damages to you and also be required to pay for your attorney fees.