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Improper Service Of Process

Improper Service Of Process

Hiring a Process Server? 7 Questions You Should Ask
By []Skip Thomas

Almost daily we get at least one phone call requesting a price list for our services. In many cases, these are high-profile law firms and the legal departments of major corporations. Rarely does anyone ask what kind of service we provide.

Our main line of business is that of filing law suits in various courts, locating defendants and witnesses, and serving the process. But that just tells you what we do and fails to tell you how we do it or describe the quality of the service.

Recently, I was delighted to receive a call from a firm that was concerned about more than price. In fact, they asked all the right questions and wanted to know:

What's our turnaround time for service?

What's our protocol for execution of service?

What about communication systems?

How do we stay in touch with our clients and the servers in the field?

What's our geographic range?  Local?  Statewide?  Nationwide?  More?

What logistical systems do we use?  In other words, how does paper move from the source to the server?

Do we know what percent of our service attempts are ultimately non-served?

It's essential to choose a company that knows the rules of the jurisdiction where the case was filed.  For example, while some jurisdictions allow any adult who is over the age of 18, has no felony convictions and is not a party to the case to serve process, most require process servers to be licensed, bonded, certified or otherwise authorized.

The stories of improper service would be funny - if it weren't for the impact on the case at hand. Legal professionals can tell stories of process servers who illegally trespassed on private property (because the server didn't know the rules) or served papers to a family member too young to receive them (how old is old enough in your jurisdiction?). All too often, such impropriety can cause re-service of process, delay in court proceedings and, in really egregious situations, a case can be thrown out, regardless of its merits.

Serving process is a small part of the responsibility of a legal professional, let alone a law firm. But it's an important part of our Constitutional right to due process. Making sure it's done right requires more than a price list. Ask the right questions and build a relationship with a trusted provider of process service. "Oops" is just not a good answer to give a client when a process has been improperly served.