We are pleased to share this story by Shwanika Narayan in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, providing a closer look at Bay Area Legal Aid’s ongoing lawsuit against debt collector Achievable Solutions, Inc. (ASI).
Our suit, filed in 2022 with co-counsel firms Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg and Bramson, Plutzik, Mahler & Birkhaeuser, LLP, alleges that ASI has exploited and defrauded California courts and consumers through a practice known as “sewer service.” Attorney Kai Haswell (a member of BayLegal’s Consumer Law team when the suit was filed, and now a Senior Associate at Kemnitzer, Barron & Krieg) explains to the Chronicle that court records show ASI has repeatedly filed false proofs of service for debt collection lawsuits. Filings have used vague or erroneous identifying information for individual debtors whom ASI claims to have served. In many cases, ASI has also claimed service by a single process server over distances and timelines that anyone familiar with Bay Area geography and traffic would recognize as impossible, e.g., four separate defendants served by the same individual over a total distance of more than 80 miles in a span of less than 40 minutes. There are even serious questions as to whether the process server in question is himself a real person or a fiction created by ASI.
The outcome of such fraudulent proofs of service is to further overwhelm California’s civil court systems as they struggle to keep up with a flood of collections lawsuits. But the most significant harm is suffered by the hundreds and possibly thousands of individual consumers who were never served, never had their day in court, and are now burdened with default judgments in cases of which they were never made aware. Studies show that as much as 70% of consumer debt collection cases already result in default judgments, and that this outcome skews heavily against defendants of color and speakers of languages other than English. Adding fraudulent practices to the existing structural inequities of debt collection lawsuits can only deepen this injustice.
BayLegal and our co-counsel firms are seeking no financial damages, but are asking the court instead to permanently stop ASI’s operations and connected businesses. We will continue to update this story as additional media coverage or new legal developments occur.