A class action lawsuit has been filed against the large New York debt collector Mel Harris and Associates, alleging fraud in service of debt collection complaints upon California consumers (Youssefyeh v. Harris, Los Angeles Superior Court).
The lead plaintiff in the case, David Youssefyeh, discovered that his bank, Washington Mutual, had levied his accounts in January 2008, for no reason known to him at the time. After some investigation, he discovered that Mel Harris and Associates had taken out a judgement against him in New York, and had served him in New York, not in California where he lived. He discovered that the firm allegedly has a business practice of somehow "serving" debt collection complaints on consumers who live outside of New York, within New York.
This practice is known widely in legal circles as "sewer service," after the practice by some process servers of throwing the summons and complaint into the sewer outside of the defendant's home and then claiming to have served them with the complaint. The effect, of course, is to deprive the consumer of any notice of the lawsuit. The first notice many consumers have of such lawsuits is a levy on their outside-of-New York bank accounts, as happened with Mr. Youssefyeh.
As many debt collection lawsuits involve small sums of money, most consumers have neither the time nor the resources to hire a New York attorney to fight or otherwise straighten out bogus lawsuits or false attempts to serve debt collection complaints. Mr. Youssefyeh knew, however, that a class action in California against Mel Harris and Associates could, if successful, put a stop this alleged practice, at least for California consumers. Each California consumer would have remedies through the class action which he or she would not have on an individual basis because of cost.
The class members have filed a class action in the Los Angeles Superior Court, Afshin David Youssefyeh and Liza Youssefyeh v. Mel Harris & Associates, et al.