What Should I Do If a Debt Collector Is Trying to Take Me to Court?

service of process
You can be served in person, by substitution or by conspicuous service

A lawsuit in New York is started by the filing of a complaint with the appropriate court and the service of suit papers on the defendant.  (The party suing is called the “plaintiff” or “petitioner” and the party being sued is called the “defendant” or “respondent.”  The party serving suit papers on the defendant is called the “process-server.”)


Many defendants incorrectly think that they cannot be successfully sued if they are able to dodge the process-server.  That is not true, and very little can be achieved by seeking to outwit the process-server.

Under New York law, so-called “substitute service” may be properly effected if the process-server leaves a copy of the suit documents with a person of “suitable age and discretion” at the defendant’s home or place of work.  In a landlord-tenant case, the papers must be left with someone who is responsible who lives or works at the defendant’s home.  In such a case, legal papers cannot be left at the defendant’s work.

Further, if the process-server makes at least two attempts on different days or at different times on the same day to deliver the legal papers, but cannot find the defendant or responsible substitute, the process-server can effect service by leaving the papers in a “conspicuous place.”

In a civil case, that means the papers can be taped to the defendant’s door at his or her home or place of work.

In a landlord-tenant case, the papers can be taped to the door or slipped under the door of the defendant’s home.  The suit papers cannot be left at the defendant’s place of work in a landlord-tenant case.

If service is done by conspicuous service, the papers also have to be mailed to the defendant.

Thus, the process-server has three methods by which to achieve service and there is little to be gained by ignoring service, whether effected personally, or by substitute or conspicuous service.

If you have been served with suit papers, or believe you are about to be, and want to consider the options available to you, drop me a line at tzink@mccarthyfingar.com.



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