The vast majority of judgments obtained by debt collectors are by default. That means the alleged debtor didn’t show up to court to contest the case. Unfortunately, I believe that debtors often don’t show up to contest a case because they feel that there is no use since the debt was once a legitimate debt. This is a mistake and results, no doubt, in many judgments (and for amounts) that never should have been. But that’s an issue for another day.
Sometimes a default judgment is obtained because the alleged debtor never actually became aware of the lawsuit. The Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure outline how an individual defendant is to be served with the Summons and Complaint. Rule 4.1 states that service may be made on a person by:
1. certified mail to their residence, place of business or employment;
2. handing it to them in person;
3. leaving a copy at their house or where they live (followed up by a copy mailed to the same address); or 4. serving their agent as provided by rule, statute or valid agreement.
These are the only ways, almost, that a person can be served with a lawsuit that has been filed in state court in Indiana. I say almost because a 2008 unpublished Indiana Court of Appeals decision says that an individual can also be served by sending certified mail to their post office box.
If service of the summons and complain is accomplished in one of these ways, service is valid even if the defendant never received actual notice of the lawsuit. That may sound unfair, but it is the law.
The good news is that service to an old residence, or a place where the defendant does not live at the time, IS NOT GOOD SERVICE. In fact, the judgment is void and can be set aside. If you just found out that a default judgment was granted against you that you had no idea about, go to the court and check the court file to find out where you were supposedly served. If it was at an old address, which is quite common, we can help you get the judgment set aside.