NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs Issues Hundreds of Subpoenas to Combat "Sewer Service"

It is no secret that "sewer service" (the intentional failure to serve legal papers) has been a historic problem in New York City. To combat the problem, the New York City Council passed Local Law 7 in 2010 that holds process servers to higher standards and requires GPS tracking to confirm the truthfulness of their alleged service. About 300 subpoenas have been served on independent process servers to assure compliance. The process service industry is fighting back claiming it is being unfairly targeted, resulting in a drop of licensed process servers. The Process Server's Association even sued the city council to block Local Law 7, which resulted in a compromise as to the extent of required record keeping.

The Langel Firm deals with falsified affidavits of service on a daily basis. In fact, some emboldened process servers actually use the GPS records to help advance fraud because many times the issue is not the physical location of the process server – it's the false statements as to who received the papers. So the GPS records may help cover up the real problem.

For example, some dishonest process servers claim to serve deceased people, "John Smiths" (who don't exist), and relatives (who live in other states). Sometimes, the extra-brazen server falsely claims to personally deliver the papers directly on the defendant.

When caught, some process servers commit perjury by affirming lies on the stand. The DCA is taking more of an active role these days to punish that behavior.

The GPS requirements may help but certainly will not cure the problem. The GPS records and data are stored with third parties, which raise additional issues of evidentiary problems.

The problem may stem from the fact that many process servers are paid too little to complete valid service. Depending on the circumstances, a process server could be legally required to visit your home or business up to five times to effect valid service. If he or she is being paid $15 per completed service,[1] it is not enough to cover the time and expense of visiting that address five times then sending the papers by mail, if necessary. So financial incentive will likely continue to exist to cut corners and fabricate statements.

The main lesson for our readers is to contact us right away if you are facing collection action and you do not recall being properly notified. You may be a victim of sewer service, which could form a strong basis to dismiss the case.



[1] $15 number not confirmed. We have seen the amount as little as $3 and as much as $35 or more.

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