How to Serve Process on a Business
- August 19
- by Stephanie Irvine
When people think of parties to a lawsuit, many people first think of individuals as being part of the lawsuit, such as in cases of divorce. Although lawsuits in which other individuals are sued are commonplace, there are times when a business is named in a lawsuit. Lawsuits that involve businesses can range from anything from slip-and-fall lawsuits to, well, pretty much anything a business could be sued for (e.g, McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit). Just as individuals are afforded their right to due process, which gives them due notification of the impending court proceedings, a business must also be afforded their right to due process. But what does this mean for a process server? Can he or she serve anyone at the business? Are there special procedures for serving process on a business? Let’s first look into the different types of businesses and who gets served at each type, and finally, how service can be effectuated.
Types of Businesses to Be Served
Not all businesses are the same in terms of their structure or classification. The type of business that will be served will affect who in the business gets served. In most cases, the process server will not be able to serve just any individual who works at the business, like a cashier or office manager — they will need to serve an owner or partner in order for the service to be accepted by the court.
There are a couple different types of small businesses that dictate who at the business gets served. An individual can operate their business independently as a sole proprietor, and in those instances, that is the person (the individual business owner) who would be served. In a partnership, a partner who operates the business would be the individual served.
When it comes to larger businesses, including corporations, limited partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLC), the business is required to have a registered agent. In short and with specific regard to service of process, a registered agent is someone who is registered with the secretary of state as the individual on record who is available to accept service of process. The reason this is required is that larger businesses often have multiple locations, some even out of state, which can make finding the business owner or partner a difficult task. Having a registered agent makes service of process easier.
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Preparing To Serve
Once you have identified who is the appropriate representative to be served, the process server would then prepare to effectuate service as dictated by the court and/or client. Before taking a job, a process server should be aware of the local and state laws regarding process service, as violating any of those rules could result in the service not being accepted by the court. With that said, prior to actually making the serve, the process server should review any specific instructions provided by the client, double-check their procedure to ensure they will be making attempts in accordance with the laws, and ensure they have the appropriate safety precautions in place. Safety precautions include knowing the location the server will be attempting service, and if it is in a dangerous area, taking the appropriate precautions to ensure they are safe while on the job.
How to Serve Process
Just as a server would make service attempts on any individual, process servers should follow best practices for service of process and ensure they are following the instructions set forth by the client. Typically, this includes properly documenting the serve by paying attention to pertinent details and/or securing video by way of a body camera, as well as making the required number of service attempts (and, if dictated by the client, varied attempts with regard to time and day). It is important to pay attention to details about the service so it can be documented later. This includes the time and date of service, identity and physical description of who was served, where specifically the service occurred, the manner in which the individual was served (substitute, person, etc.) and any other details that need to be noted for the client and the court. These details should be noted on the affidavit of service, which is then notarized and returned to the client and/or court on the client’s behalf. Not sure what the affidavit of service is? Check out this step-by-step explanation to learn how to properly complete one.
After The Serve
Many process servers offer court filing as an additional service. This involves filing the service affidavit and other important documents with the appropriate court on behalf of the client. If the server has agreed to file these documents, he or she must do so within the time period specified by the court, which can be as short as a day, depending on the circumstances and the court. Even if the service is good, improperly filed or documents not filed on time can render the service incomplete and not accepted by the court. If the client is responsible for filing the documents, the server must have the affidavit notarized and returned to the client in a timely fashion specified by the client.
Need to Find a Server?
Overall, serving a business is typically no different than serving an individual. If you need to find a process server to serve a business, you can find one in our directory of process servers.