By: Bryon L. McKay
San Francisco area news is exploding with news articles similar to happened in New York a couple of years ago. The articles are claiming that process servers are serving the dead, serving at more than one place at a time; all the traits of what started a New York process serving company owner to end up in jail and collection law firms closed down.
The news reports started with The Bay Citizen on May 23, 2012 and has spread to ABC and NBC affiliates the next day. People are saying they were never served by the process server. Some say they have proof they we never served by seeing the affidavit of service and proving they were somewhere else at the time of service. One states that the process server’s proof of service states that he served an individual personally months after the respondent died.
One article says there are hundreds if not thousands of instances similar to this across the entire state of California.
The news articles also bring up the fact that the process servers in the area are largely “unregulated” and are generally exempt, under the FDCA, from being sued and that respondents have little recourse to go after the servers, process service agency or the entities who buy the debt.
These news reports could have been “copied & pasted” from New York newspapers to the California newspaper and more specifically the San Francisco Bay area media. Just change the names and the dates.
The only difference that I see is the process serving company being written about; ABC Legal Services is one of the largest, if not the largest process serving company in the country. The New York process service company was statewide while ABC Legal Services has offices across the country.
ABC Legal Services says on their website that the process servers use a program with GPS, audit capabilities, take pictures and etc to help minimize damage from improper services. The above articles reference years 2011 and 2012 and I wonder if they we using this technology then? No matter what technology they use, anything can be breached or faked.
Now, the Bay Area process servers are probably on the same path that the NYC process servers have already experienced. Thousands and thousands of people will come out of the woodwork saying they were not served or were not aware of any law suit against them. The process server never served me and I was unaware of any default judgment until they froze my bank account, yadya yada yada.
The California State Attorney General, just like New York, will open an investigation and find that there is evidence of improper service. People were unaware that there was a law suit against them. Some lost homes, cars and jobs over improper service. The politicians will get involved and next stop..regulation!
ABC Legal Services will come out with a press release stating they were not aware of any misdoings, tell us about their integrity, honesty etc. We are working closely with the investigation and look forward to an amicable end. They may even use the line that we use independent process servers and are not responsible for their actions in anyway.
The process serving agencies, a few process servers and the law firm(s) will all be investigated. A trial will ensue and some people will go to jail, some will be fined or both fined and jailed. Local politicians will get involved and presto, San Francisco process servers will be regulated, they may even cite how New York City handled their crisis.
We knew that other state and local governments where looking at our “test” case with interest because we know service of process, like above and what happened in New York, are not that unusual with collections, landlord/tenant and foreclosure services across the country. All you have to do is a web search and you find this everywhere.
Who is to blame, I believe the process server agencies. What in the world are they doing offering services at such a ridiculous rate to the law firms. What do they expect when they pay servers a ridiculous rate to serve the papers? Some process serving companies blame the lawyers, but if the process serving agency accepts the terms and conditions, good for the law firm. Still the process server agency’s fault for agreeing with the terms.
I know, the unwritten word is it is a numbers game, a gamble if you will. Not everyone will fight bad service of process or even lack of service of process. No, it is not a numbers game, it is a business about law and legal matters. If there were no process server agencies accepting the lowball rates of the collection firms, what would happen? Would the collection firms pay more, I do not know but I would love to find out. Listen, in New York City, you cannot pay a server $8.00-$15.00 and expect due diligence and proper service on the majority of the services.
Do the new GPS rules and regulations here in New York City fix the problem? It helps but it has its flaws and can still be beaten by unscrupulous servers. Just picture this, a process server riding in his car listening to music, snapping pictures from his car and putting in bogus information about services. All appearing legitimate and proper. As far as I am concerned, all this does is make it more difficult for the respondent to claim he/she was not served.
Do I believe process servers should be regulated? Yes I do. To what extent, I don’t know. I will say this, ServerLinks.com made a conscious effort years ago not to get involved in collections, landlord/tenant or foreclosure work for obvious reasons. I am hoping that the New York City process servers will understand a different way of doing business and help improve our industry. I believe it is happening slowly and the marketplace will level out toward everyone’s satisfaction.
Bryon L. McKay is the President of ServerLinks.com. He has been in the process serving business for 23 years.