Can't tell if I am being sued. YANML, but do I need one?
May 12, 2014 7:27 PM   Subscribe

A debt collector sent a written notice to my Post Office box saying that I am being sued in the Superior Court of San Francisco, and requested a physical address to serve papers. However, I cannot find any case with my name on it in the SF Superior Court's database (here, under "Name Search Query"). The notice is also suspicious because the docket number is "to be assigned" and no date of trial is given. I think this is just an attempt to get a physical address and I am not really being sued. How can I be sure?

I don't need responses re: disputing the debt, what / how much it's for, why I'm a bad person for not paying it, etc. I just want to figure out, based on this sparse written notice, if I am actually being sued. If I am, I will contact a lawyer for assistance.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If someone sues you, it's their job to find and serve you. If they can't (and the judge or court rules don't allow service by publication or something like that) then their lawsuit won't go anywhere: the court acquires jurisdiction over you when you're served.

If the docket number is "TBA," it probably means they haven't filed the case. They can't get a summons to serve on you without filing, so that's really their first step. (it also requires that they pony up the filing fee, which is probably a few hundred bucks.)

I think you're right: they're either fishing for a physical service address (it's not that hard to find and serve most people) or they're sending you a boilerplate complaint document in hopes that you'll be intimidated and offer to settle with them. (Which can, I believe, validate your debt and keep them on your credit report for a few more years.)

IANYL, TINLA, but if you've been sued, it's pretty hard not to know it. And on the facts you relate, I don't think you've been sued.
posted by spacewrench at 7:33 PM on May 12, 2014 [6 favorites]

Usually, hoping they won't get your physical address to serve you is a temporary thing at best. As this is, yeah, a necessary prelude to the lawsuit, I think you can safely consider that it's a process that is currently happening and figure out from there what you need to do about it. But it's normal for them to hold off on the actual first filing until they've figured out where they can serve you, because if service doesn't happen fast enough, the whole thing has to be started over.
posted by Sequence at 7:39 PM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

My two cents: give them your address and then send them a debt validation letter. Half the time these debt collection mills don't even buy the underlying paperwork proving the debt. If they sue on the bad debt, counterclaim with violations of FDCPA.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 7:43 PM on May 12, 2014 [4 favorites]

Service of Process
posted by mlis at 7:56 PM on May 12, 2014

If the collector can't be arsed to figure out your physical address, f*ck 'em. Not your responsibility to help someone else serve papers on you.
posted by valkyryn at 3:04 AM on May 13, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't give them your address and never agree that you owe the debt either orally or in writing. If asked, just say that you are unsure of the debt and that you want them to provide you with proof. I have seen several small consumer debt cases dismissed because the company that purchased the debt cannot prove that it was actually owed.
posted by unreasonable at 6:03 AM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

If they know your PO box, they could very easily just stake-out the location, wait for you to drop-by, and serve you with the notice in-person. This is just phishing. I suspect everyone in the area with your name got a similar letter.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:16 AM on May 13, 2014

do nothing. you will know you are being sued when the court sends you the documents which will be hand delivered by sheriff and notorized. i tried to sue an old landlord and they literally hid from the sheriff's office to the point where my suit could not progress because they couldn't "find" them.
posted by ps_im_awesome at 7:43 AM on May 13, 2014

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