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Law Firms Liable for Defective Process Servers

United Press International reports that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has filed criminal charges against American Legal Process of Long Island, a process service company that failed to provide notice of debt-related lawsuits to consumers. As a result, consumers unknowingly defaulted in thousands of collection actions -- and indeed, did not even learn of the judgments until they found bank accounts frozen or assets garnished. According to the criminal charges, ALP filed false affidavits swearing that it had effected service when it did not.

But the damage won't end with ALP. Cuomo also intends to sue Forster and Garbus, which used ALP to serve more than 28,000 summons and complaints. Cuomo contends that the firm had an obligation to supervise its process server and further stated that he was "putting all law firms on notice that they are responsible for the conduct of the companies they use to serve complaints and other legal documents."

Is Cuomo's attempt to pursue law firms that used ALP reasonable or is he just looking for a deep pocket? After all, the process servers were signing the affidavits, why would the law firm have reason to believe that service was not effected? I suppose that if ALP was the only company that Forster & Garbus used and debtors routinely failed to show up in court, perhaps the firm should have been suspicious. But my guess is that the firm used dozens of process servers to handle hundreds of cases where parties frequently fail to show up. In that case, I'm not sure why the firm would have had any reason to suspect that ALP wasn't doing its job.

What's your view? Who should be liable here and what are the appropriate damages?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 15, 2009 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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