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"You've Been Served." To Say It, Or Not To Say It?

  • August 07, 2012
  • by Kimberly Faber

A recent discussion in the ServeNow LinkedIn Group raised the question of whether or not to tell the person they are being served. The line, ‘you’ve been served’ has grown infamous with films like Pineapple Express and other media-driven outlets. We’re curious, do you use the line or do you try to stay away from it?

Do you tell clients “You’ve been served”?

Should process servers tell defendants that they’re being served? Let us know whether or not you do in the following poll:

“You’ve been served” in film and television:

Here's an example of a serve as depicted in the ABC show Scandal (Jump to 1:12 for the serve):

What process servers in the ServeNow LinkedIn Group say

According to the LinkedIn conversation, most process servers rarely or never actually say the words, ‘you’ve been served,’ but depending on the state in which they serve and the reaction of the defendant that opinion can change. Keep reading for more from your peers on this topic.

Process servers who use the line

Group member Susan Adams explains, “I usually tell them that they have been served and have 30 days to answer the complaint that is with the summons. If they have to appear on a court date already set, I let them know that if they don't show, then they will get a default judgment against them.” Upon further inquiry and concerns that it could upset an individual who is already suspicious, Adams explained her stance. “Keep in mind, I do NOT discuss their papers, I let them know that they ARE court papers and have a clock ticking on it.” She also noted that one of her clients always requests that when serving divorce papers she verbally tell the defendant that they are being served, the dates and that a default judgment will be made in their absence.

Here’s what other group members had to say:

Mark Weisberg -- The Constables Office

You've Been Served Mark Weisberg“The only time I have ever said “you’ve been served” was when I served a defendant on a commercial plane at the airport in Boston,” member Mark Weisberg explained. He furthered that the only reason he did was because the defendant had bragged to his ex-wife that she wouldn’t be able to have him served for contempt because he was living in Europe.


Rob Grant -- GranTactics Process Serving & Skip Tracing

you've been served robert grant

Rob Grant explained that he tells about 1 in 10 people that they are being served. “Mostly those who have an attitude that is negative, or someone who keeps asking what the document is,” he said.


Troy Houghtaling Sr. -- Process Server

youve been served troy hogtaling sr“I always tell them they are being served. Once they are identified and handed the papers they are told that they have been served. If they ask what it is I tell them I do not know. I just serve them,” said member Troy Houghtaling Sr.


Gary Rolf -- Rim Country Rapid Serve, LLC

youve been served gary rolfGroup member Gary Rolf explained, “I seldom intend to use the term ‘you’ve been served,’ but find I almost take satisfaction in using it when people are simply unpleasant and/or abusive.

Some group members noted that they are required to explain who they are and what they are doing, so using the line is a part of the job. The majority of process servers who shared that they do say ‘you’ve been served’ explained that they only do so occasionally and in very specific situations.

Process servers who don’t

Process Server Blu Daniels notes that he was told in his certification class to never to say “you’ve been served” because it’s a television thing. “Only when the person has the papers in their hands do I provide any explanation only by pointing to the paper and telling them this is a citation and the rest of the package will explain in more detail." He explains that if they have any questions, they should call the attorney of record or call the clerks office, and generally tells them,  “Sir, I just deliver them, I don’t read them, I cannot give you any more information or advice.”

Here’s what other group members had to say:

Dennis Richman -- Dennis Richman's Services For The Professional, Inc

youve been served dennis richmanDennis Richman explains, “This is not T.V., so I do not say ‘you have been served’. But I do tell them that they are legal papers.”


Richard Michaud -- Northeast Security, Inc.

you've been served richard michaudRichard Michaud, who has worked as a Constable in Massachusetts for 17 years never says 'You’ve been served.' “I find explaining what they are getting and being specific by not giving legal advice, defendants will actually shake your hand and say thank you.”


Chuck McKenzie -- Booz Allen Hamilton

youve been served chuck mckenzie“I generally say, ‘Mr. So-and-so? Yes, sir. I just have some legal documents I’m supposed to deliver to you,’” group member Chuck McKenzie shared.


Dan Clothier -- Able Process Servers

youve been served dan clothier“I never tell someone they are being served. I just simply say that I have legal documents.” - Dan Clothier

Many process servers agreed that using the line will rarely do anything good for the situation and that it’s best to treat recipients with respect. Wayne Edwards explained that serving process is hard enough and can, at times, be unpleasant. He stresses that there is no need for attitude, and that the bottom line is that they will react to what you do or say. Jim Hayes concluded with, “I rarely say ‘you’ve been served’ because I normally end the meeting with a ‘Thank you. Have a good day.’ That eases the moment even more.” 

Want to add your comments to the discussion?

The ServeNow LinkedIn Group hosts a variety of conversations surrounding marketing, business tips, and service tactics. 1,564 members share their advice and experiences in this very active community.

Click here to join the conversation on LinkedIn

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