SAN FRANCISCO — The California Supreme Court may settle a question of language in a case that involves credit card collection.
The language in question is whether "an affiant be physically located and personally available for service of process at the address provided in the declaration that is within 150 miles of the place of trial.”
Julia Meza defaulted on a credit card account with Wells Fargo Bank, the debt of which was sold to Portfolio Recovery Associates (PRA). Portfolio filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California to collect the defaulted debt from Meza.
As part of the collection action, PRA’s attorneys, Hunt & Henriques, served Meza with a document titled, “Declaration of PRA in Lieu of Personal Testimony at Trial.” The declaration, filed pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure, described Meza’s unpaid account and was signed by a PRA employee, Colby Eyre, who authenticated the basis for claiming the amounts owed. Eyre said she would be available at a work address that turned out to not be hers.
It was also determined that Eyre lives more than 150 miles from the relevant county courthouse.
Meza filed a putative class action in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in August 2014, alleging that PRA failed to comply with California Code of Civil Procedure and that PRA’s declaration was invalid because Eyre was not personally available for service at the address provided in his declaration.
She further argued that PRA’s use of the declaration would be admissible at trial and maintained that PRA was in violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which prohibits debt collectors from using false, deceptive, misleading or unfair representations to collect any debts, according to the court filing.
H&H filed a motion for summary judgment and argued that California Code of Civil Procedure simply requires the affiant to be “available for service of process” within 150 miles of the place of trial, not personally available for service at the address provided.
The district court agreed, finding that "the plain language of did not require the affiant’s physical presence, and that the legislative history and purpose of the statute supported that interpretation.”
The case is currently on hold until the California Supreme Court answers or decides not to settle the question of language.