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Oita woman loses lawsuit and pays damages without ever knowing she’d been sued

36 Comments
By SoraNews24

There are probably few things upsetting than being legally served court papers. One exception, though, would be losing a lawsuit and having the court take the damages straight out of your bank account, all without you even being aware you’ve been sued in the first place.

It sounds unlikely, but that’s just what happened to a woman in Oita City, Oita Prefecture last year. One day, the woman, a restaurant owner, checked with her bank, only to find that her entire account had been seized by the Oita District Court without warning.

It turned out that a former employee had sued her, claiming she owed him 680,000 yen, but did so in such a diabolical way that she was never informed of it.

First, the man filed his lawsuit in the neighboring prefecture of Kumamoto in the summer of 2019. While doing so, rather than the actual address of his former boss, he filled out the location of a supposedly vacant residence in Oita that had nothing to do with her. The Kumamoto Summary Court sent a Statement of Claim announcing the lawsuit to the address provided, but since no one actually lived there to receive it, it was returned to sender.

The court inquired about this with the man, who responded that he was sure the woman lived there because the lights were on at night and the water meter was working. He also insisted that the woman’s address listed on her certificate of residence was outdated and the restaurant she ran was no longer in business, so the only place to serve her with papers would be that one address.

None of this was true, however.

In Japan there is a way of circumventing people who constantly avoid being served called fuyubinsotatsu to kojisotatsu which means “attached mail service and public service.” First, the court sends the Statement of Claim by registered mail, and as long as it is logged by the post office as “delivered,” the defendant is considered served, regardless of whether or not the intended person received it. Then, the service is also publicly posted at the courthouse for a certain period of time, after which the trial will go ahead with or without the defendant.

In this case, the defendant was nowhere near the Statement of Claim or public posting, never appeared when her case went to trial, and was unable to mount any defense whatsoever. As a result, the man was handed a swift victory and the Kumamoto Summary Court ordered the woman pay the full amount demanded of her.

However, since the woman didn’t live in Kumamoto the courts there had no authority to seize her assets, so the man then submitted the verdict to the Oita District Court in August of 2020, and requested that they take the money from the woman’s bank account. Seeing no reason to doubt the Kumamoto court’s ruling they agreed, withdrew the money from her account, and awarded it to the man the following month.

Needless to say, it was an amazingly bold attempt at defrauding two separate courts, and he might have gotten away with it too, had the woman not noticed that “SEIZED” was printed on her bankbook, her bank account was locked, and all of its roughly 300,000 yen was removed.

She quickly got the bottom of it, and then sued the man in Oita District Court for the money he had wrongfully won in Kumamoto Summary Court. On Feb 10, the court ruled in her favor and awarded her 1.78 million yen for the money lost as well as mental anguish. The judge also condemned the man for providing false information that resulted in a definitive court ruling.

While justice was served for the woman in the end, the man’s future remains to be seen.

Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Nishinippon Shinbum, Nikkei Shimbun, Hachima Kiko

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© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

36 Comments
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Japanese law at it's best, yet again.

5 ( +27 / -22 )

That is indeed diabolical, but the guy is obviously smart to game the system like that. He could have applied his wits to make a better honest living instead.

19 ( +28 / -9 )

What a idiot. It would have never work anyway. Anyone would have found out if their account suddenly got emptied and seized. Is like he is asking for get counter sued. There was nothing smart about how he did it. Unless he intend to make a run for it after getting the money

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Japanese law at it's best, yet again.

Agreed. In other, developed countries, you cannot take a default judgement without first sending notification to the defendant.

Japan would do well to being itself in line is the the 21 century instead of insisting on living in the Meiji Period.

4 ( +24 / -20 )

The biggest thing here that has been and is troublesome to say the least, is the lack of communication between the courts!

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Wow. Hopefully the Yaks don’t learn how to do this.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

This method of serving subpoenas seems dishonest in itself. When I was a bicycle messenger I used to find creative says of serving them. They always had to get into either the defendant’s or their attorneys hands. Most of the time they were expecting them, so no problems. Other times...weee.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

All that for a measly 300,000 yen? Which now cost him 1.7 million yen? No, not smart at all.

18 ( +18 / -0 )

One more reason NOT to keep over a 100,000 Yen in one bank account.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Japanese law at it's best, yet again.

It's not a uniquely Japanese problem. In western countries someone prepared to lie could just as easily swear a false affidavit of service while never serving anything.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Well if he says she lives there, she must! He said the lights were on at night. Why would he lie? Besides, we have no means to verify if his claims are true, so let's just take his word for it.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Mark, I am not sure how could you do that. Once you get the salary in your account, you spread it in let's say 10 small accounts? Then how do you pay the rent, combine money from two accounts? Kid's school? International flights? It gets quite complicated.

So no, just the fact there are swindlers out there, it doesn't make a solid reason not to keep a reasonable sum of money in your account. And if you manage a business (like the woman in the story does), you do need much more cash flow than 100 k

12 ( +12 / -0 )

Now imagine if instead of a businesswoman this would have happened to an older person incapable of filing a lawsuit or a foreigner who's not fluent in Japanese.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

"Agreed. In other, developed countries, you cannot take a default judgement without first sending notification to the defendant."

That's not entirely correct, as the notification was sent.

All the defendant could do is apply to set aside the default judgment.

Every LPC student does this as an examinable subject.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

the court ruled in her favor and awarded her 1.78 million yen

I wonder if he paid or will pay her. He's probably gone through her 300,000 yen.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Needless to say, it was an amazingly bold attempt at defrauding two separate courts, and he might have gotten away with it too, had the woman not noticed that “SEIZED” was printed on her bankbook,

Had the woman not noticed? How can you not notice?

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

The legal system in Japan is so ....last century!

-4 ( +9 / -13 )

Had the woman not noticed? How can you not notice?

She did notice. That's why we're reading about it now.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

The legal system in Japan is so ....last century!

How exactly would the legal system in your own country have prevented this?

In any Anglo country, the process would be this: The fraudster decides to sue you, they list a false address in the claim form, they lie in a sworn affidavit claiming to have personally served you at this fake address, the court accepts the affidavit, the trial proceeds without you and a default judgement is entered, a notice of the judgement might be mailed to the fake address provided in the filings, the fraudster enforces the judgement by seizing the money in your account. The end result is the same.

0 ( +9 / -9 )

Anyone would have found out if their account suddenly got emptied and seized.

You might be surprised how many people wouldn't countersue to avoid the hassle and publicity, and how many are sitting on mountains of cash and never showing it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Japanese law at it's best, yet again.

These cons exist in every country, I have seen them, the difference is the same numbers but it usually has a dollar sign and not yen.

Often it goes like this file the lawsuit give the address of an accomplice that then accepts the court papers then vacates the temporary location, the rest goes pretty much as the above.

Having a business my lawyer here in Japan warned me long ago of such things, but usually the con artist goes and changes the victim's residency registration (which oddly is far to easy in some places) then the con goes like the above.

This is why despite it being a pain in the .... I regularly go to the city office to check our family member's residency registration.

This is the first time I have heard something like this and it is strange the courts took the man's word over the actual registered address.

I think the woman could have a case against the court clerk office as they are supposed to at least send to the actual registered address and not just accept the word of the plaintiff.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This man should be prosecuted for fraud. His actions were criminal.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

 In western countries someone prepared to lie could just as easily swear a false affidavit of service while never serving anything.

actually wrong, affidavits need proof in court, in my country , you need to show proof the person being sued has been served court papers, by a third person, normally a delivery company, many times with video evidence, if none then that deliver person or company would have to swear under oath in court, if required, that they lawfully served those documents correctly.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

In western countries someone prepared to lie could just as easily swear a false affidavit of service while never serving anything.

I recall a case where someone filled in an affidavit saying he has served Mr X at a certain address. In fact he had not served anyone at all (the nickname for it was Sewer Service..ie you throw the documents in the garbage or down a sewer).

Judge found out..and he was sentenced to a year in jail . Courts come down very hard on people swearing false advidavits.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So was he charged?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Good luck collecting. Just because you win a verdict doesn't mean the bank account will have enough money to cover it.

A rather large portion of Japan's homeless population is people trying avoiding debts. Usually working day labor jobs. When you stay at shelters or other housing that's part of the social safety net your location is registered and the collectors can find you

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@wtfjapan

in my country , you need to show proof the person being sued has been served court papers, by a third person, normally a delivery company, many times with video evidence, if none then that deliver person or company would have to swear under oath in court, if required, that they lawfully served those documents correctly.

The problem with third party service in the US is that it's not a safeguard against a determined fraudster. Nothing prevents the fraudster from impersonating a third party when they sign the affidavit. Every state is different so I can't say you're wrong, but normally you don't need to include video/photo evidence or have the process server testify unless the validity of service is actually being challenged.

Below is the proof of service affidavit in California, as an example. You only attach a copy of the documents you've served. You don't need to sign it in front of a notary or anyone who could verify your identity.

https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/pos040.pdf

@Nippori Nick

Yes, 'sewer service' is a problem everywhere. Usually it's unscrupulous debt collection agencies who don't want to waste time and money tracking down debtors, let alone face them in court. The courts do come down hard on these people when they're caught. For better or worse every system assumes people are being somewhat honest. If it didn't, the system would become even slower and inefficient.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@M3M3M3

In western countries ...

The problem with third party service in the US

Damn ! Why does US has to represent all western countries ?

Stop ! In a way, US has a decentralized archaic system ... you cross a state limit, different laws ...

Do your US vs Japan law, don't involve half of the world.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This same thing in principle does indeed happen in the United States. Plantiff files a claim using a false address for the Defendant. The hired Process Server simply files an affidavit saying that he/she delivered the papers to a "person" at a given address. Yes, that's all that's required. That results in a Default Judgement against a Defendant who may not even know they have been sued. Once a Default Judgement is in hand, the Plaintiff can proceed to go after the assets, including bank accounts. Although SSA payments are exempted. Plaintiff may also have Informatiom Subpoenas issued to locate further assets. So a Bank Account can certainly be seized without the Defendant knowing anything about what's going on. It's an underhanded technique often used by shady "collection agencies". They don't want you to know and possibly answer their claim.

So contrary to opinions posted here, no...it's not only in Japan. And the Defendant in a Default Judgement against them does not need to be notified. In some cases they can't be notified.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Are these not crimes in Japan?

(1) filing a false paper with the court; and then

(2) lying to the court when questioned about it.

Doing this with the intent to perpetrate a fraudulent suit would either be a third crime or an aggravating factor for the first two offenses.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

When I lived In Britain, it was very easy to sue companies for small amounts. Every company on its letterhead had to state the registered address of its head office. You went to the local county court filled out forms and served them by registered mail at the registered address. They had 14 days or maybe it was a week to respond. If they were didn't respond, the lost the case and you could send in the bailiffs. I did it to very late payers many times. None ever responded. The problem was some seemed to have no assets at all.

I wonder how this applies in Japan to, for example, the case of tree falling down and causing damage. Would a claim be sent to the registered address of the owner be accepted by the courts even if the owner had moved and no one knew where he had moved to?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

claiming she owed him 680,000 yen

It would be helpful if the article provided some info of whether she did or didn't actually owe him the money. I don't want to defend the guy's actions, but I know someone who had a genuine grievance against a restaurant owner, and won a legal case against him. But when it came time to settle up, the owner had declared bankruptcy and the claimant got no money. If you were suspicious of not getting the money through normal channels, might you not look at alternative routes?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If you were suspicious of not getting the money through normal channels, might you not look at alternative routes?

Legal ones. There's a big problem with illegal routes. See this article for an example.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm sure 'The Nigerian' prince/banker and the uncountable legion of dishonest, conscienceless, debt chasing U.S. lawyers have been doing this for years. Even sadder here is if this guy had a valid tort but went the deceptive way to avoid this woman's personality. Well, with the thought that nothing is ALL bad, at least this guy might show some creative talent for writing crime drama...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

For single moms' trying to collect back child support in this country is a friggin nightmare and the Courts really protect the fathers' more than the children and struggling mothers. Yet, this man can go and sue and collect money that easily how is that?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

So, who is going to get punished for allowing this apart from the criminal?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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