Stop, Drop, or Roll with it?
A person involved in a legal matter must be notified of it. This is where a process server steps in to deliver important documents efficiently and quickly. A process server is attentive to a client’s instructions, asks for clarification if needed, and conducts research prior to attempting service to increase the likelihood that service will be successful the first time. However, even with proper preparation, a process server can never know for certain how service on a particular file will unfold, let alone who stands on the other side of the door. Process servers encounter individuals who are caught in legal conflicts and the parties involved can be in a stressful period of life. Here are three steps to handling tough serves and the unexpected.
Occasionally, a process server may encounter an individual who becomes agitated during a conversation, and in such instances, it is important for process servers to “stop” and listen while remaining calm and collected. A professional presence can help diffuse and de-escalate the situation and prevent emotions from flaring up.
However, there are circumstances when it becomes dangerous for a process server to continue attempts at service. Process servers can encounter hostile individuals or even aggressive pets at the address for service. In situations where personal service appears impossible for safety reasons, process servers will communicate details of all their attempts to their clients who may instruct them to provide an affidavit of attempted service. This affidavit will be used in a court application for alternate service. If the court finds that the process server has made every effort to locate, contact, and attempt to serve the documents upon the recipient but was unable to, an alternate service order may be granted detailing how the legal documents will be delivered.
Sometimes, a process server will receive instructions to serve documents according to an order of alternate service granted by the court. A process server would then be permitted to “drop” the documents off to the recipient, either physically or electronically.
An alternate service order may detail the delivery of legal documents by posting the documents to the door of a specified address in a sealed envelope addressed to the recipient, leaving the documents in a sealed envelope with another individual, sliding the documents under a door, positing to a mailbox, sending the documents by registered and or regular mail, or even by sending a copy electronically by email or through social media. There are many ways documents can be alternatively delivered, and a process server must carefully review any court orders to ensure compliance with and execution of each of the delivery methods.
The first time a process server visits a subject’s home may not result in a successful service. With persistence and patience however, a process server who “rolls with it” will be able to deliver the documents to the correct person.
In such cases, process servers at West Coast Process Serving may leave a business card taped to the door, in the mailbox at the residence, or with a receptionist, adult family member, or other individual at the address for service to reach the intended recipient of the legal documents. The business card will have our contact information and will direct the individual to call or email us. Process servers will also try to contact the individual by calling phone numbers provided to us by our client and leaving voice messages at different times of the day. Oftentimes, these efforts to contact evasive individuals nudges them to respond and set up a meeting place and time with a process server.
There are other strategies that process servers, in consultation with clients, can use when a person is evasive. A client may instruct a process server to put a hold on attempting service for a period of time or follow up and resume attempts to serve on a specified date. These strategies require organization to ensure that legal documents are served within the limitation periods a client has brought to the process server’s attention.
The process servers at West Coast Process Serving are no strangers to the “stop, drop, or roll” tactics described above when it comes to successfully serving evasive individuals. When one method does not work, our process servers are able to think creatively. They may utilize information found in social media posts, at public events, or even a person’s Facebook or Instagram posts about airport arrivals, to catch even the slipperiest of recipients to effect service.