Judge Vacates Default Judgment Against Defendant in FDCPA Suit

A District Court judge in Indiana has granted a motion to vacate a default judgment that was entered against a defendant in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case, ruling that the plaintiff never properly served the defendant with the summons and complaint, after the defendant removed the case to federal court.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Catlett v. Integra Credit can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff filed suit in Indiana state small claims court, alleging the defendant violated the FDCPA and the Truth in Lending Act. Rather than making specific allegations, the plaintiff — proceeding pro se — sought to have all his debts forgiven and removed from his credit and be paid $5,000 in attorney’s fees. The summons and complaint were allegedly served via certified mail at an address on Lasalle Street in Chicago. But the registered agent for the defendant — on file with the state of Illinois — lists a different address on Lasalle street than the one the summons and complaint were sent to.

A hearing was held in small claims court and a default judgment was entered against the defendant. The defendant said it only learned of the action after it received a copy of the judgment in the mail a week after the hearing. That same day, the defendant’s attorney removed the case to federal court and the day after that, it filed the motion to vacate the default judgment.

Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the District Court for the Southern District of Indiana did not have to do much to vacate the default judgment. The plaintiff’s service to an address other than the one that was on file with the state of Illinois rendered the service “inadequate,” Judge Evans Barker ruled, and voided the default judgment.

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