This article is written by Peters and Associates.
I just got a warning from my company’s HR department that I was sued and now there’s a garnishment on me. They’re going to take my money starting next week. How can my wages be garnished if I never was served papers?! Please help! — Jason B., Las Vegas
I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, in Nevada it’s quite possible to be “served” a summons, lose your case (default judgment) and be garnished up to 25 percent of your take-home pay without actually ever knowing you were sued.
Confusing? You bet.
The Nevada service of process rules are explained in a set of statutes called “Nevada Rules of Civil Procedure” (The Rules). The Rules were created in 1951 under Nevada Revised Statute (NRS) 2.120, took effect in 1953 and have been modified several times over the years. (The entire document can be found at leg.state.nv.us/courtrules/nrcp.html and is 77 pages when printed).
The Rules list several methods of service. The one you see on TV, where a process server has to physically touch a defendant with the actual papers of service, is the least used in this state. Rather, the law also provides that service can be accomplished “by leaving copies thereof at the defendant’s dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein ...” In other words, someone can serve you by handing a copy to anyone who lives at your residence who is 18 or older.
That’s still not the end of it, though, because Nevada also allows service by publication — and that’s the usual gotcha. What is service by publication? If a defendant resides out of state, has left the state, cannot be found within the state or is avoiding service by hiding, the plaintiff may “serve” that person by publishing the notice in the newspaper one day a week for four weeks.
Yes, you read that right. If someone is trying to serve you with a summons and can’t find you, they can publish the notice to appear in a newspaper (usually the Nevada Legal News) for four weeks, file an affidavit with the court and, legally speaking, you’ve been served, allowing the suit against you to proceed.
That is why it’s important to keep your addresses up to date and not dodge creditor calls or letters. If you’re being sued, it’s better if you know about it before the plaintiff receives a default judgment.
Garnishment isn’t always the end of the world, however. Some garnishments can be stopped with appeals to the original decision, settlement offers and/or by filing bankruptcy. For more detailed information on stopping your specific garnishment, I’d recommend contacting an attorney.
• While often interchanged by the public, a “summons” and a “subpoena” are entirely different things.
• When you are being sued, there are several methods of service. They include:
1. A process server physically touching a defendant with the actual papers of service.
2. Leaving copies of a summons at the defendant’s dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age.
3. If a defendant cannot be found, “serving” that person by publishing the notice in a newspaper one day per week for four weeks.
Please note: The information in this column is intended for general purposes only and is not to be considered legal or professional advice of any kind. You should seek advice that is specific to your problem before taking or refraining from any action and should not rely on the information in this column.