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Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin LLC
Question: If a law firm has a judgment against you, but you never received the summons to go to court, Can you do anything?
Answer: A judgment entered without service is void and subject to attack at any time, and you may have grounds to move to vacate it. Go to the clerk’s office and get the “return of service.” See if you can prove it is false.
It may say that you were served personally, in which case you need to show you were not at the address, or where you actually were. Generally there is a corroboration requirement in attacking a return of service based on matters within the knowledge of the process server -- your denial that you were served is not enough -- although the fact that you don’t fit the physical description on the return by Illinois law or can show you were not living at the address of service is usually sufficient.
The return may also say that a member of your household over the age of 13 was served. That is also good service if a copy of the summons and complaint was mailed to you. To attack the return, it is necessary to show that the person was not a member of your household, or you did not live there, etc.
If you have grounds for claiming you were not served, you need to file a motion with the court supported by affidavits or other evidence.
The general time limits for vacating judgments in Illinois are as follows: (i) within 30 calendar days, it is very easy, (ii) 30 days to 2 years normally requires a showing of a valid defense and due diligence to present it, and (iii) a judgment which is void because of lack of service (or a few other reasons) is subject to attack at any time.