Difficult to Find Defendant

A Game of Cat and Mouse

Most of the time, process servers successfully deliver documents to the right individuals on the first attempt. However, there are times when a process server is faced with a difficult to find defendant. Such individuals may be evasive because they believe that if they ignore the process server, their legal issue will disappear as well.

Regardless of what kind of defendant a process server encounters, here are some strategies process servers use when they find themselves in a game of “cat and mouse”.

Know Before You Go

Gathering all information related to the address for service and the intended recipient of the documents is essential to a successful service. Prior to attending an address, process servers will conduct research and review the clients’ instructions in detail. Clients may have insight into a particular individual, such as their work schedule, type of vehicle they drive, or if the individual has been evasive or hostile towards other process servers in the past. This information can alert the process server to what they can expect ahead of an attempt at service.

Pattern Recognition

Even with personal details about the individual, process servers who attempt to serve documents may find that the person is evasive. At West Coast Process Serving, we may classify a particular defendant as “evasive” if he or she exhibits one or more of these patterns of behaviour:

  • Refusing to Open the Door
    Although it is quite possible that an individual is not home at the time a process server attends an address, there have been cases when a process server notices movement in the home, the defendant’s vehicle parked in the driveway, or someone peering through the blinds by a window, which all indicate that someone is in the residence.
  • “No show” Several Times in a Row
    The individual may contact the process server and arrange for a time and place to meet to receive the documents. However, the process server attends the meeting place, only to find that the individual is nowhere to be found, yet again.
  • Explanations Do Not Add Up
    Related to the previous point, an individual may provide different explanations for not being able to meet the process server at the agreed upon time and location. Some explanations, such as having conflicting meetings, working overtime, or emergency family matters to attend to, can be reasons individuals give to excuse themselves from meeting a process server. At West Cost Process Serving, we are persistent and diligent in attempting service, but we also recognize when an individual is simply providing reasons to avoid our process servers.

What To Do When It’s Getting Nowhere

When our process servers recognize that an individual is evading service, there are a few strategies we rely on to effect service.

Gathering Intel and Surveillance Measures

Process servers who attend an address may meet other family members, other residents in the home, or neighbours, who can provide more information about the individual in question. On occasion, process servers may learn that the individual no longer resides at the given address for service, may be given an alternate address, or directed to another location the individual frequents. A process server may also conduct surveillance of the address for service by parking in the neighbourhood at a particular time the individual is expected to return home. This way, the moment the individual pulls up to the driveway of the residence, the process server will be ready to “catch” the individual and attempt to serve the documents.

Skip Tracing

With the client’s instructions, we may perform a skip trace to locate the difficult to find individual. Skip tracing is the process by which professional skip tracers strategically collect and analyze data to find the uncooperative individual.

Alternative Service

In certain situations, the only viable option for service would be to submit an application for alternative service. This is a last resort or can be requested by a client when the individual refuses to receive the documents and all other strategies to serve have been exhausted. If a client informs us that they will apply for alternative service, the process server working on the file will prepare an affidavit of attempted service. This affidavit will detail all the dates and times service was attempted and precisely what occurred, complete with photographs if relevant.

At West Coast Process Serving, we know that not every service will go as expected. However, regardless of who is at the receiving end of the documents, we communicate with our clients to find the best solution for the unique circumstances of each file.

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