DerryNews.com, Derry, New Hampshire

Opinion

October 3, 2013

About the Law: Paperwork can't be served via voice mail

I applied for payday loans online, but I did not go through with it because it wasn’t enough. Now, they’re calling family members and threatening criminal charges. They called my parents and left a voice-mail that their law firm had officially served me via voice-mail.

No papers, court or otherwise, have been served on me, but I’m worried because they have my current address and some family members whose names I gave on the application. Can a lawsuit be served by voice-mail?

First of all, threatening to bring criminal action is a major violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Second, contacting friends or family members is rarely permitted. The FDCPA allows such contact only if the debt collector does not know how to contact you.

However, when they make such a call, the collector is limited only to an attempt to obtain your location information. You have a legal cause of action which, if proven, would pay attorney fees and costs.

Lawsuits must be served in accordance with court rules and no rules anywhere I’m aware of allow service by telephone. Where, as here, they know your address, the papers would have to be served by a sheriff or appointed process service physically at your address. Leaving the papers is OK; they don’t have to be physically placed in your hands.

My friend was sued in a business dispute. After he figured out how to file an answer in court, they then settled, with my friend agreeing to pay $3,500 to settle the case if the lawsuit was dropped.

But, when we called the attorney on the other side and asked for something in writing, there was no one to talk to him and something about documents needed to be done and sent to court first. Shouldn’t we get some kind of receipt or letter of agreement that the case is dropped?

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