Understanding Service of Process
The legal term “service of process” refers to the method used by parties in a lawsuit to formally deliver legal documents to the other parties in the litigation as well as the court. Service of process is a critical step in starting a lawsuit. Serving a defendant properly is so important to the justice system that failure to do so prohibits the case from proceeding. Just as important, service of process establishes jurisdiction over the lawsuit by the court hearing the case. Finally, service of process is crucial because it puts the defendant(s) on notice that the plaintiff(s) are bringing a lawsuit and that the court will preside over the case.
Rules of Civil Procedure
Service of process occurs at the initiation of a lawsuit, when the party bringing the case (referred to as the plaintiff) delivers legal documents (the complaint and summons) on the party against whom the case is filed (known as the defendant). The rules that govern service of process in American courts are the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) — specifically, Rule 4. Rule 4 addresses service of process and has several subsections that addresses issues that may arise in regards to the service. Some important factors to consider include:
● Any person who is not a party to the lawsuit and is at least 18 years of age can effect proper service of process;
● A plaintiff may alternatively request that a representative from the U.S. Marshal’s office carry out service of process;
● A defendant within the United States ca be served process by any of the following methods: (1) according to the laws of the state where the court is located or the laws where the defendant is located, (2) by delivering a copy of the complaint and summons to the defendant (known as personal service), or (3) by delivering a copy of the complaint and summons to an agent (a person or entity who has been authorized by the individual to receive service of process on his or her behalf).
There are also service of process rules for corporations and associations. These same rules apply to partnerships, companies, and not-for-profit organizations. The FRCP allows a corporation to be served using the rules of where the court is located as well as where the corporation is located. Generally, a company’s location is determined by its principal place of business although this may also be dictated by the state under where it is incorporated. If state law allows, a corporation may be served by mailing a copy of the complaint and summons to its offices.
Servicing Your Needs
It is critical to follow the proper procedures when serving a lawsuit in the United States. Proper service is even more critical when it comes to international lawsuits. If you need to serve a document internationally, contact Ancillary Legal today.
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