Can an injunction and penalties be upheld in Superior Court if the defendant was never “served” nor received notice from the court of the injunction?

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Can an injunction and penalties be upheld in Superior Court if the defendant was never “served” nor received notice from the court of the injunction?

I was sued in civil court but was never “served”. I received paperwork from the plaintiff’s attorney certifying that I was served, so I wrote a “courtesy” letter to the judge and lawyer letting them know I was never served and made offers of settlement. I never received anything from the court until a notice from the prothonotary’s office notifying me of penalties and sanctions, at which time I hired an attorney. The judge said the injunction would never be overturned because it was not appealed and penalties were astronomical. Can this be upheld in Superior Court?

Asked on February 27, 2012 under Personal Injury, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You need to retain an attorney to represent you, if the penalties truly are "astronomical" (or if they are not large enough to justify the cost of an attorney, it's likely better to pay them).

The short answer is, as a matter of law, there must be good service to establish jurisdiction, or the court's authority, over a party to an action. In theory then, if you were not served, any injunction or other judgment against you should be dismissed.

However, there appears to have been a factual dispute here--the other party  certified that you were served. Moreover, it appears you did not contest this fact in the proper way--a "courtesy" letter is not a certification, and has no evidentiary value, meaning that only the other sides evidence was likely considered. Also, for the efficient administration of justice, there are court rules which specify how and when to raise various issues or challenge various determinations or actions, and the courts will hold against a party who might otherwise be in the right if  he or she did not follow the court rules--they have to do this, since there is no other way to run a court system.

Therefore, if you did not provide proper evidence and did not raise this issue the right way, it may be very difficult to challenge or overturn it now. You would have to show not only that you have a potential meritorious, or good defense, to the underlying action, but also there was some valid reason for your failure to do things the right way--and that you at least tried, even if incorrectly, to bring up the matter prior, rather than "sleeping on your rights." This is not an easy showing to make, and so if you are serious about trying to challenge this injunction and penalties, you will need an attorney.


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