It is not always easy to personally serve an individual, particularly if being sued is their favorite pastime. Though some people will go to great lengths to avoid being served, there are alternatives to personal service that will eventually work to bring that individual into the suit. Personal service is generally required by all courts. This means that the process server (or someone over the age of 18 and not a party to the lawsuit) must hand-deliver the summons and complaint to the person being served. If after several attempts the server has been unable to personally serve the documents, then you can resort to the alternatives.
One of the alternatives is to serve the individual by sending the summons and complaint by certified mail to their last known address with a return receipt. The package may be returned unopened, which means you might have to try yet another alternative. Some states allow what is called “nail and mail;” wherein a server simply tacks the service packet to the defendant’s door and then mails a copy the same day to that same address. However, most states require that rather than tacking the papers to the door, a competent person over the age of 18 must accept the papers. The server must disclose to that person what the papers are about. Do not forget to mail!
If you have tried all of the above ways to serve and have failed, you can go before a judge and explain your attempts and request that the court approve service by publication. This alternative provides that you publish the lawsuit in a paper of general circulation for a certain period of time (generally once a week for four weeks). While this can be costly, it is also embarrassing and will finally “get” the defendant. The defendant need not even read the publication for service to be perfected.
In the end, the alternatives the courts have allowed as substitutes for personal service will almost always work - so keep trying to serve those papers. And for those of you desperately trying to avoid the inevitable – give up!
Contact Direct Legal Support, Inc. for your service of process needs. Our registered process servers have served thousands of individuals and businesses across the United States.