Did you have a default judgment entered against you in New Jersey?
Now, what are you supposed to do? It may be time to fight. If you were not personally served, we want to discuss your situation with you. Without personal service in New Jersey, a default judgment may be able to be fought.
The courts follow a strict set of guidelines when it comes to personal service in New Jersey. The Primary Method of Obtaining In Personam Jurisdiction in New Jersey is by having the summons and complaint to be personally served within the State pursuant of New Jersey. The requirements of the rules with respect to the service of process go to the jurisdiction of the court and must be strictly complied with. Any defects . . . are fatal and leave the court without jurisdiction and its judgment void.'” Berger v. Paterson Veterans Taxi Serv., 244 N.J. Super. 200, 204 (App. Div. 1990)(quoting Driscoll v. Burlington-Bristol Bridge Co., 8 N.J. 433, 493, cert. denied, 344 U.S. 838, 73 S. Ct. 25, 97 L. Ed. 652 (1952)). In the mentioned case, the judge found “fatal defects in plaintiff’s service of process,” if we can find the same types of defects in your case you have a chance to fight your default judgment.
Even if you were personally served, there may be defects in the service. Which means that no matter if you think you were served properly you still should discuss your case with a New Jersey Lawyer who understands service of process in New Jersey, and the alternate methods of service because a New Jersey court could lack jurisdiction over you.
What does it mean that a New Jersey court lacks jurisdiction?
When a court lacks jurisdiction over, it also lacks the “authority to enter judgment against, a defendant who has not been properly served with process.” City of Passaic v. Shennett, 390 N.J. Super. 475, 483 (App. Div. 2007); see also Berger, supra, 244 N.J. Super. at 204-05 (“Personal service is a prerequisite to achieving in personam jurisdiction[.]”). “The primary method of obtaining in personam jurisdiction over a defendant in this State is by causing the summons and complaint to be personally served[.]” R. 4:4-4(a). So, without personal service a court may not be able to enter a valid judgment against you, but the court may have been able to get jurisdiction over you in a different way than personal service.
Is personal service the only way for a court to get service over a defendant in New Jersey?
No personal service is not the only way to get service over a defendant in New Jersey. There are alternate methods of service. For instance, personal jurisdiction “may be obtained by substituted mail service under Rule 4:4-4(b)(1)”, but only if “it appears by affidavit satisfying the requirements of Rule 4:4-5(b) that despite diligent effort and inquiry personal service cannot be made.” The filing of an affidavit of inquiry is not a mere technicality it is a mandatory jurisdictional requirement. See R. 4:4-5(b); Pressler & Verniero, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment to R. 4:4-5 (2013). Service made by mail without satisfying the affidavit requirement under Rule 4:4-4(b)(1) is ineffective, and will not support the entry of default unless the defendant “answers the complaint or otherwise appears in response thereto.” R. 4:4-4(c).
There are additional methods such as publication, consent by contract, and by mail are a few ways a court can get jurisdiction over an individual. If you feel you have been served improperly, discuss your situation with a New Jersey lawyer