Effectuating Service of Process While Social Distancing
It is no secret that the novel Coronavirus pandemic and response has forced businesses, including those in the legal industry, to adapt to regulations regarding physical interaction. Considering the social distancing requirements imposed on the general American public, we will look at how to continue to effectively carry out service of legal process in litigation.
Social Distancing Mandates
Jurisdictions across the nation have imposed social distancing requirements in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Most of these mandates are modeled after the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines, which advise the avoidance of large gatherings and that individuals maintain a distance of about six feet. As a result, businesses should make sure that their policies adhere to these guidelines.
When it comes to service of process, it is important to make sure that social distancing requirements are not violated. When a lawsuit is first filed, the plaintiff’s attorney will typically hire a third party to serve process, which is a copy of the complaint or petition, summons, and any attachments, on the defendant(s). Typically, service of process happens by hand-delivering the documents to the defendants. In the age of coronavirus, though, hand-delivery of legal documents will cause issues with social distancing compliance.
Fortunately, depending on which state the lawsuit was initiated, there are likely alternatives to hand-delivery of service. In many states, legal papers can be left near a defendant or in a place where the defendant is informed about service. In fact, courts across the nation have allowed leaving process on a defendant’s porch or the home after announcing the nature of the documents. This method of service is commonly referred to as “drop service,” and was already in use pre-Coronavirus. Using “drop service” across all cases is likely appropriate in light of the current pandemic and social distancing orders because a defendant could not or would not physically accept service of process. A court would likely find, however, that if the process server leaves the papers near the defendant (or in a place the defendant would likely find them) and informs the defendant about service, that service was performed. The court’s final conclusion would hinge upon a competent affidavit from the process server describing in detail how service was effected. The same method could be used when serving a defendant’s registered agent. That being said, many businesses have been forced to close down due to stay-at-home orders.
We Can Help You
Social distancing guidelines, which can interfere with effectuating personal delivery of service of process, do not mean that you cannot pursue litigation. If you need to serve a complaint or petition on a defendant, whether domestically or internationally, do not hesitate to contact Ancillary Legal.