Judge Dismisses FDCPA Case Over Use of County Sheriff as Process Server

A District Court judge in Indiana has adopted a Magistrate Judge’s report that recommended a defendant’s motion to dismiss be granted in a Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case related to the use of law enforcement officials effecting the service of process for a collection lawsuit.

A copy of the ruling in the case of Thomas v. Financial Builders Federal Credit Union can be accessed by clicking here.

The plaintiff defaulted on a debt and was sued by the defendant to attempt to recover the unpaid balance. The defendant used a County Sheriff to serve the summons and complaint on the plaintiff, who turned around and filed a lawsuit of his own. The suit accuses the defendant of violating Section 1692e of the FDCPA by shaming and disgracing the plaintiff because using a law enforcement official creates the appearance of a criminal act, not the civil lawsuit that was filed. Using law enforcement officials creates an “impression of criminality” and allegedly violates Section 1692e(b) of the FDCPA, which prohibits making false representations in regard to ” “any services rendered or compensation which may be lawfully received by any debt collector for the collection of a debt.”

As the Magistrate judge pointed out, services applies to services of a debt collector and not the service of process under Indiana law. And, in Indiana, it is perfectly acceptable to use law enforcement officials as process servers. It is not a violation of the FDCPA to use law enforcement officials to serve collection complaints on consumers, the judge ruled.

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