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North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure

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North Carolina Process Serving Requirements

Upon the filing of the complaint, summons shall be issued forthwith and in any event within five days. The complaint and summons shall be delivered to some proper person for service. In this State, such proper person shall be the sheriff of the county where service is to be made or some other person duly authorized by law to serve summons. Outside this State, such proper person shall be anyone who is not a party and is not less than 21 years of age or anyone duly authorized to serve summons by the law of the place where service is to be made.

North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure

Please note that lobbyists are active in the state of North-Carolina and laws concerning civil procedure and process serving can change. Therefore the information listed below may have been amended. For updated process serving legislation, please visit the North Carolina Courts web site.

Rule 4. Process.

Rule 45. Subpoena.

Rule 4. Process.

Summons—Issuance; who may serve.

Upon the filing of the complaint, summons shall be issued forthwith, and in any event within five days. The complaint and summons shall be delivered to some proper person for service. In this State, such proper person shall be the sheriff of the county where service is to be made or some other person duly authorized by law to serve summons. Outside this State, such proper person shall be anyone who is not a party and is not less than 21 years of age or anyone duly authorized to serve summons by the law of the place where service is to be made. Upon request of the plaintiff separate or additional summons shall be issued against any defendants. A summons is issued when, after being filled out and dated, it is signed by the officer having authority to do so. The date the summons bears shall be prima facie evidence of the date of issue.

Summons—Contents.

The summons shall run in the name of the State and be dated and signed by the clerk, assistant clerk, or deputy clerk of the court in the county in which the action is commenced. It shall contain the title of the cause and the name of the court and county wherein the action has been commenced. It shall be directed to the defendant or defendants and shall notify each defendant to appear and answer within 30 days after its service upon him and further that if he fails so to appear, the plaintiff will apply to the court for the relief demanded in the complaint. It shall set forth the name and address of plaintiff’s attorney, or if there be none, the name and address of plaintiff. If a request for admission is served with the summons, the summons shall so state.

Summons—Return.

Personal service or substituted personal service of summons as prescribed by Rule 4(j)(1) a and b must be made within 30 days after the date of the issuance of summons, except that in tax and assessment foreclosures under G.S. 47-108.25 or G.S. 105-374 the time allowed for service is 60 days. When a summons has been served upon every party named in the summons, it shall be returned immediately to the clerk who issued it, with notation thereon of its service.

Failure to make service within the time allowed or failure to return a summons to the clerk after it has been served on every party named in the summons shall not invalidate the summons. If the summons is not served within the time allowed upon every party named in the summons, it shall be returned immediately upon the expiration of such time by the officer to the clerk of the court who issued it with notation thereon of its nonservice and the reasons therefor as to every such party not served, but failure to comply with this requirement shall not invalidate the summons.

Summons—Extension; endorsement, alias and pluries.

When any defendant in a civil action is not served within the time allowed for service, the action may be continued in existence as to such defendant by either of the following methods of extension:

Summons—Discontinuance.

When there is neither endorsement by the clerk nor issuance of alias or pluries summons within the time specified in Rule 4(d), the action is discontinued as to any defendant not theretofore served with summons within the time allowed. Thereafter, alias or pluries summons may issue, or an extension be endorsed by the clerk, but, as to such defendant, the action shall be deemed to have commenced on the date of such issuance or endorsement.

Summons—Date of multiple summonses.

If the plaintiff shall cause separate or additional summonses to be issued as provided in Rule 4(a), the date of issuance of such separate or additional summonses shall be considered the same as that of the original summons for purposes of endorsement or alias summons under Rule 4(d).

Summons—Docketing by clerk.

The clerk shall keep a record in which he shall note the day and hour of issuance of every summons, whether original, alias, pluries, or endorsement thereon. When the summons is returned, the clerk shall note on the record the date of the return and the fact as to service or non-service.

Summons—When proper officer not available.

If at any time there is not in a county a proper officer, capable of executing process, to whom summons or other process can be delivered for service, or if a proper officer refuses or neglects to execute such process, or if such officer is a party to or otherwise interested in the action or proceeding, the clerk of the issuing court, upon the facts being verified before him by written affidavit of the plaintiff or his agent or attorney, shall appoint some suitable person who, after he accepts such process for service, shall execute such process in the same manner, with like effect, and subject to the same liabilities, as if such person were a proper officer regularly serving process in that county.

Summons—When process returned unexecuted.

If a proper officer returns a summons or other process unexecuted, the plaintiff or his agent or attorney may cause service to be made by anyone who is not less than 21 years of age, who is not a party to the action, and who is not related by blood or marriage to a party to the action or to a person upon whom service is to be made. This subsection shall not apply to executions pursuant to Article 28 of Chapter 1 or summary ejectment pursuant to Article 3 of Chapter 42 of the General Statutes.

Summons—Amendment.

At any time, before or after judgment, in its discretion and upon such terms as it deems just, the court may allow any process or proof of service thereof to be amended, unless it clearly appears that material prejudice would result to substantial rights of the party against whom the process issued.

Process—Manner of service to exercise personal jurisdiction.

In any action commenced in a court of this State having jurisdiction of the subject matter and grounds for personal jurisdiction as provided in G.S. 1-75.4, the manner of service of process within or without the State shall be as follows:

(j1) Service by publication on party that cannot otherwise be served. A party that cannot with due diligence be served by personal delivery or registered or certified mail may be served by publication. Except in actions involving jurisdiction in rem or quasi in rem as provided in section (k), service of process by publication shall consist of publishing a notice of service of process by publication once a week for three successive weeks in a newspaper that is qualified for legal advertising in accordance with G.S. 1-597 and G.S. 1-598 and circulated in the area where the party to be served is believed by the serving party to be located, or if there is no reliable information concerning the location of the party then in a newspaper circulated in the county where the action is pending. If the party’s post-office address is known or can with reasonable diligence be ascertained, there shall be mailed to the party at or immediately prior to the first publication a copy of the notice of service of process by publication. The mailing may be omitted if the post-office address cannot be ascertained with reasonable diligence. Upon completion of such service there shall be filed with the court an affidavit showing the publication and mailing in accordance with the requirements of G.S. 1-75.10(2), the circumstances warranting the use of service by publication, and information, if any, regarding the location of the party served.

The notice of service of process by publication shall (i) designate the court in which the action has been commenced and the title of the action, which title may be indicated sufficiently by the name of the first plaintiff and the first defendant; (ii) be directed to the defendant sought to be served; (iii) state either that a pleading seeking relief against the person to be served has been filed or has been required to be filed therein not later than a date specified in the notice; (iv) state the nature of the relief being sought; (v) require the defendant being so served to make defense to such pleading within 40 days after a date stated in the notice, exclusive of such date, which date so stated shall be the date of the first publication of notice, or the date when the complaint is required to be filed, whichever is later, and notify the defendant that upon his failure to do so the party seeking service of process by publication will apply to the court for the relief sought; (vi) in cases of attachment, state the information required by G.S. 1- 440.14; (vii) be subscribed by the party seeking service or his attorney and give the post-office address of such party or his attorney; and (viii) be substantially in the following form:

NOTICE OF SERVICE OF PROCESS BY PUBLICATION STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA _ COUNTY In the _ Court notice that a pleading seeking relief against you (has been filed) (is required to be filed not later than , 20__) in the above-entitled (action) (special proceeding). The nature of the relief being sought is as follows: (State nature). You are required to make defense to such pleading not later than (, 20__) and upon your failure to do so the party seeking service against you will apply to the court for the relief sought.

(j2) Proof of service. Proof of service of process shall be as follows:

  1. Personal Service. —Before judgment by default may be had on personal service, proof of service must be provided in accordance with the requirements of G.S. 1-75.10(1).
  1. Registered or Certified Mail: Before judgment by default may be had on service by registered or certified mail, the serving party shall file an affidavit with the court showing proof of such service in accordance with the requirements of G.S. 1-75.10(4). This affidavit together with the return receipt signed by the person who received the mail if not the addressee raises a presumption that the person who received the mail and signed the receipt was an agent of the addressee authorized by appointment or by law to be served or to accept service of process or was a person of suitable age and discretion residing in the addressee’s dwelling house or usual place of abode. In the event the presumption described in the preceding sentence is rebutted by proof that the person who received the receipt at the addressee’s dwelling house or usual place of abode was not a person of suitable age and discretion residing therein, the statute of limitation may not be pleaded as a defense if the action was initially commenced within the period of limitation and service of process is completed within 60 days from the date the service is declared invalid. Service shall be complete on the day the summons and complaint are delivered to the address.
  2. Publication: Before judgment by default may be had on service by publication, the serving party shall file an affidavit with the court showing the circumstances warranting the use of service by publication, information, if any, regarding the location of the party served which was used in determining the area in which service by publication was printed and proof of service in accordance with G.S. 1-75.10(2).
(j3) Service in a foreign country. Unless otherwise provided by federal law, service upon a defendant, other than an infant or an incompetent person, may be effected in a place not within the United States:

Process—Manner of service to exercise jurisdiction in rem or quasi in rem.

In any action commenced in a court of this State having jurisdiction of the subject matter and grounds for the exercise of jurisdiction in rem or quasi in rem as provided in G.S. 1-75.8, the manner of service of process shall be as follows:


Rule 45. Subpoena.

For attendance of witnesses; issuances; form.

A subpoena for the purpose of obtaining the testimony of a witness in a pending cause shall, except as hereinafter provided, be issued at the request of any party by the clerk of superior court for the county in which the hearing or trial is to be held. A subpoena shall be directed to the witness, shall state the name of the court and the title of the action, the name of the party at whose instance the witness is summoned, and shall command the person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony at a time and place therein specified. The clerk shall issue a subpoena, or a subpoena for the production of documentary evidence, signed but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it, who shall fill it in before service. A subpoena for a witness or witnesses need not be signed by the clerk, and is sufficient if signed by the party or his attorney. A subpoena for the production of documentary evidence need not be signed by the clerk, and is sufficient if signed by the attorney requesting the same.

Issuance by a judge.

Such subpoena may also be issued by any judge of the superior court, judge of the district court, or magistrate.

For production of documentary evidence.

A subpoena may also command the person to whom it is directed to produce the records, books, papers, documents, or tangible things designated therein. Where the subpoena commands any custodian of public records to appear for the sole purpose of producing certain records in his custody, the custodian subpoenaed may, in lieu of a personal appearance, tender to the court by registered mail certified copies of the records requested, together with an affidavit by the custodian as to the authentication of the record tendered or, if no such records are in his custody, an affidavit to that effect. Any original or certified copy or affidavit delivered under the provisions of this rule, unless otherwise objectionable, shall be admissible in any action or proceeding without further certification or authentication. Where the subpoena commands any custodian of hospital medical records (as defined in G.S. 8-44.1) to appear for the sole purpose of producing certain records in his custody, the custodian subpoenaed may, in lieu of a personal appearance, tender to the presiding judge or designee by registered mail or by personal delivery at no cost certified copies of the records requested, on or before the time specified in the subpoena, together with a copy of the subpoena and an affidavit by the custodian testifying to the identity and authenticity of the records, that they are true and correct copies, and as appropriate, that the records were made and kept in the regular course of business at or near the time of the acts, conditions, or events recorded, and that they were made by persons having knowledge of the information set forth; or if no such records are in his custody, an affidavit to that effect. When the copies of medical records are personally delivered, a receipt shall be obtained from the person receiving the records. Any original or certified copy of medical records, or affidavit, delivered according to the provisions of this rule shall not be held inadmissible in any action or proceeding on the grounds that it laks certification, identification, or authentication, and it shall be received as evidence if otherwise admissible. The copies of the medical records so tendered shall not be open to inspection or copy by any persons, except to the parties to the case or proceeding and their attorneys in depositions, until ordered published by the judge at the time of the hearing or trial. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to waive the physician-patient privilege or to require any privileged communications under law to be disclosed. The judge, upon motion to quash or modify made promptly and in any event at or before the time specified in the subpoena for compliance therewith, may

Subpoena for taking depositions.

Service.

All subpoenas may be served by the sheriff, by his deputy, by a coroner or by any other person not less than 18 years of age, who is not a party. Service of a subpoena for the production of documentary evidence may be made only by the delivery of a copy to the person named therein or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested. Service of a subpoena for the attendance of a witness may be made by telephone communication with the person named therein only by an authorized server who shall be a sheriff, his designee who is not less than 18 years of age and not a party, or coroner, or by delivery of a copy to the person named therein or by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, by any person authorized by this section to serve subpoenas. Personal service shall be proved by return of a sheriff, his deputy, or a coroner making service and by return under oath of any other person making service. Service by telephone communication shall be proved by return of the authorized process server, noting the method of service. Service by registered or certified mail shall be proved by filing the return receipt with the return.

Punishment for failure to obey.

Failure by any person without adequate cause to obey a subpoena served upon him may be deemed a contempt of the court from which the subpoena issued. Failure by a party without adequate cause to obey a subpoena served upon him shall also subject such party to the sanctions provided in Rule 37(d). (1967, c. 954, s. 1; 1969, c. 886, s. 1; 1971, c. 159; 1975, c. 762, s. 3; 1983, c. 665, s. 1; c. 722; 1989, c. 262, s. 1.)

1-75.10. Proof of service of summons, defendant appearing in action. Where the defendant appears in the action and challenges the service of the summons upon him, proof of the service of process shall be as follows: (b) If served by any other person, his affidavit thereof, showing place, time and manner of service; his qualifications to make service under Rule 4(a) or Rule 4(j3) of the Rules of Civil Procedure; that he knew the person served to be the party mentioned in the summons and delivered to and left with him a copy; and if the defendant was not personally served, he shall state in such affidavit when, where and with whom such copy was left. If such service is made outside this State, the proof thereof may in the alternative be made in accordance with the law of the place where such service is made.

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