Lawyer claims outdated eviction summons lost case

JACKSONVILLE, Fl. -- In the Summer 2012, the new courthouse opened on West Adams street, closing the old courthouse on East Bay Street after 50 years.

"It is kind of basically non functional property address," said Victoria McNair.

McNair, a lawyer with Three Rivers Legal Service, said the proper address of the Duval County courthouse became a problem when her client was served an eviction summons using the old address.

"If they're sending out summons to people, particularly in an eviction where you only have five days to respond," said McNair, "they probably have a stack of those they're using [with the old address] and that is our deep deep concern."

McNair is representing a mother of five who responded to an eviction notice at the old the address and as a result McNair said her client missed a court hearing.

"At the real courthouse 501 West Adams it appeared that she had not responded in the five days and a default judgement was entered against her," McNair said.

Her client, who does not want to be identified (we will call her Marie) said she responded as instructed by the summons and sent a letter to the old address.

"I sent a letter to him (landlord) and to the clerk of the courts office," Marie said.

Now she's concerned because she did not get her hearing she may be forced to leave the home she rents.

"I'm just worried about being outdoors," she said. "I have five children."

McNair has petitioned the court to set aside the default judgement and grant them a hearing; she said there is also a dispute over the amount owed.

The judge has scheduled a hearing for May, but McNair said she's concerned about the further use of an outdated form.

"This could be happening to dozens of people," she said.

Charlie Broward, spokesman for the Clerk of Courts of court, said this is the only reported incident.

"The summons was sent by a third party vendor, not a contracted vendor and signed off by our staff," Broward said.

Broward said there is a system in place for any mail going to the old address.

"Mail is either forwarded to the new courthouse or return to the sender," said Broward. "We do not a response in this case."

He said they have notified the vendor, who appears to have had a glitch in its system, and advised the eviction summons division to pay attention to the forms before signing off on them. Broward said all of their current forms have the correct address.

McNair hopes no other tenant has to experience what her client experienced by responding to old address.


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