From the Office of the New York State Attorney General
- Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo [Wednesday] announced his office has sued 35 law firms and two debt collectors(1) in New York State in order to throw out an estimated 100,000 default judgments improperly obtained against New York consumers. This is the latest action in Cuomo’s ongoing investigation into unlawful debt collection practices. According to the lawsuit [...], the companies relied on a Long Island company, American Legal Process (ALP), to notify New York consumers that they faced debt-related lawsuits. ALP, however, failed to properly serve consumers across the state with legal papers, causing thousands to unknowingly default and have costly judgments entered against them without the chance to respond or defend themselves.(2) In April of this year, Cuomo’s Office announced criminal and civil cases against ALP and its owner, William Singler, for this fraudulent business scheme.(3)(4)
- Attorney General Cuomo also announced that as part of his ongoing investigation into fraudulent process servers and debt collectors, his Office is determining which other law firms statewide relied on ALP to serve legal process on New Yorkers facing lawsuits. More than 20 such firms have been identified to date and his Office is notifying those firms of its intent to seek to vacate any default judgments those firms have obtained based on ALP affidavits of service.
For the NY AG's press release, see Attorney General Cuomo Sues To Throw Out Over 100,000 Faulty Judgments Entered Against New York Consumers In Next Stage Of Debt Collection Investigation (37 Law Firms and Collectors Named in Lawsuit for Failing to Properly Notify New Yorkers Being Sued for Owing Debt; Cuomo Seeks to Vacate Over 100,000 Faulty Judgments Statewide and Provide Restitution to Victims).
For more from the NY AG on this lawsuit, see:
Go here for other posts on "sewer service."
Thanks to Bill Collins of Crossroads Abstract, Rochester, NY for the heads-up on this story.
(1) The law firms and debt collectors named in the lawsuit are: Forster & Garbus; Sharinn and Lipshie; Kirschenbaum & Phillips, P.C.; Solomon and Solomon, P.C; Goldman & Warshaw, P.C.; Eltman Eltman and Cooper; Eric M. Berman, P.C.; Stephen Einstein & Associates, P.C.; Fabiano and Associates; Jones Jones Larkin O’Connell; Panteris & Panteris, LLP; Zwicker and Associates; Relin, Goldstein & Crane; Woods Oviatt Gilman; Leschack & Grodesnky; Hayt Hayt & Landau; Pressler & Pressler; Jaffe & Asher; Mullen & Iannarone; Arnold A. Arpino & Associates; Houslanger & Associates; Mann Bracken, LLC; Smith Carroad Levy & Finkel; McNamee, Lochner Titus & Williams; Thomas Law Office; Fleck, Fleck & Fleck; Eric Ostrager; Cohen & Slamowitz, LLP; Cullen and Dykman LLP; Winston & Winston, P.C.; Cooper Erving & Savage, LLP; Robert P. Rothman, P.C; Gerald D. DeSantis; Greater Niagara Holdings, LLC; Rodney A. Giove; Advanced Litigation Services, LLC; and Jason L. Cafarella.
(2) According to his press release, the NY AG alleges that, ALP, as a legal process server, was hired by high-volume debt collection law firms in New York to serve legal papers, usually a summons and complaint, notifying individuals that they are being sued and must answer the complaint. ALP, however, allegedly engaged in “sewer service,” where process servers take advantage of individuals facing lawsuits by failing to properly alert them and denying them the chance to respond. As a result, tens of thousands of judgments were obtained against unsuspecting New Yorkers, many of whom first learned they were being sued when they found their bank accounts frozen or their wages garnished. ALP covered up the fraud by falsifying sworn affidavits of service in courts across New York. The law firms and debt collectors sued then used these false affidavits to obtain default judgments against NY consumers. The Attorney General’s Office estimates that the average default judgment totaled approximately $5, 474 (based on this average amount, these default judgments apparently were not obtained in connection with foreclosure actions; one can only wonder how rampant sewer service is in foreclosures).
(3) See NY AG Files Criminal Charges & Parallel Civil Suit Against Process Serving Firm & Its CEO Alleging Massive "Nail & Mail Sewer Service" Operation.
(4) Carolyn Coffey, an attorney with MFY Legal Services, a nonprofit provider of free legal services in New York, said: “Over and over again we see hundreds of the most vulnerable New Yorkers -- the elderly, disabled, and working poor -- blindsided by default judgments in lawsuits that they never even knew about until after the cases were over. Our justice system is built on the basic premise that everyone has a right to be heard in court before a judgment can be entered against them, and the debt collection law firms that engage in sewer service deny New Yorkers this fundamental right. MFY commends Attorney General Cuomo for taking these steps to remedy the devastating effects of sewer service, and for sending the message to debt collection law firms that they must comply with the most basic requirements of due process.”
MFY’s 2008 report, Justice Disserved, documented many victims of improper service who had judgments unknowingly entered against them, often to devastating effect. SewerServiceAlpha