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Service of Process by Telephone: A New Collections Farce?

Posted by J. Edward Richards | Aug 05, 2022

We've all heard the stories of process servers stalking people down to serve lawsuits. The stories are quite varied – from servers following people by car, showing up at their workplaces, or throwing papers on doorsteps. As attorneys who regularly defend consumers in collections actions, we've heard our fair share of these stories throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the Covid-19 pandemic gave rise to many court orders and procedures designed to allow the legal system to continue to function remotely while balancing the rights of Plaintiffs and Defendants alike. However, some things remained the same – you have a right to be properly served in any action against you. This has not stopped some process servers from pushing the limits of unacceptable conduct.  Recently, we have been made aware of a new practice that some process servers have begun to employ – “service by telephone.” It is our position that this practice is unacceptable under present law, and being aware of your rights is the first step in protecting them.

The scenario: You receive a call from a process server who then informs you that by receiving the telephone call, you can “consider yourself served.” Nothing more – no copy to a roommate or spouse, no certified mail, and not even a copy of the lawsuit on the doorstep.

 Florida Statutes Chapter 48 outlines the proper methods and procedures that may be undertaken by a creditor and/or process server to provide you with a copy of the lawsuit. An individual may be personally served by handing the lawsuit to them directly, substitute served by providing a copy of the lawsuit to a sufficient third party, or even served by publication or certified mail in some instances. If the first and only contact you have is by telephone, and you are not provided with a copy of the lawsuit, it is very likely that you have not been properly served. The act of stating that a telephone call means a defendant was served is not likely, by itself, service of process.

 Service of process sets certain timelines in motion. You may need to attend a pretrial conference or file a written response into the case. If you fail to do so, a Plaintiff could obtain a judgment against you and put your income and assets at risk of garnishment.

If a judgment has been entered against you as a result of such an improper telephone call or other improper service method, the experienced attorneys at Holland Law Group may be able to have the judgment vacated. We offer a free consultation and are available to assist Floridians whether you live in Pensacola, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, or anywhere else throughout the Sunshine State. Let us take review your circumstances and see what we can do to get the weight of a lawsuit off of your shoulders.

About the Author

J. Edward Richards

Edward Richards is from Pensacola, FL. He received his J.D. from Mercer University, as well as a certificate fromthe school's prestigious Advanced Legal Writing Program. He returned to Florida as a prosecutor in Bradenton beforemoving to auto insurance litigation. Edward's focus in the high-volum...

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