In California state court, a party cannot get a default judgment against someone who never knew the lawsuit was occurring. Service of a summons and complaint are necessary to alert someone of the lawsuit and give the person an opportunity to be heard in court.
What should you do if a debt collector — or anyone — gets a default judgment against you when you were never served? An attorney can file a motion to overturn the default judgment for lack of personal jurisdiction.
The closer in time to the granting of the judgment, the simpler the motion is — HOWEVER, if you never were served, the judgment can be set aside at any time.
PLEASE note — service does not mean that someone has to hand papers to you and you grab hold of the papers. Substitute service, where a process server hands the papers to an adult at your residence who admits that you do live there, that counts as service. If you run or slam the door when a process server shows up and they leave you the documents, that almost always counts as well. This is not a “gotcha!” type cure-all for all or even most default judgments. However, if you really were not served and can show that to be true, then contact a consumer attorney to get the judgment set aside.