Earls v. Harvest Credit Elevates Form Over Substance

I have been following the case of Earls v. Harvest Credit.  It was decided by the Arkansas Court of Appeals, but then taken on review by the Arkansas Supreme Court.  Their decision was released last week.   It was a simple collection case on an unpaid credit card debt.  But this is the kind of decision that is difficult to explain to a non-lawyer because it seems to defy common sense.

The form summons that started the case included the wrong time period for incarcerated individuals to respond to the lawsuit.  But the defendants were not incarcerated.  The summons notified them correctly of the time they had to respond.  But they filed no response.  There does not seem to be any dispute that they owed the debt.  Nonetheless, the Supreme Court held that the defective summons made the judgment invalid.

David Williams at Kutak Rock in Little Rock authored an excellent blog post on this decision.  With his permission, I am linking to it here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ark-court-reverses-default-judgment-due-incorrect-summons-williams

I encourage you to read the blog post and the majority, concurring, and dissenting opinions, and ask yourself if this outcome comports with Rule 1 of the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure (2015).

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