You’ve Been Served, Or Have You?

Somehow, in your hands are a stack of papers with two distinct headings, one which states “Summons” and the second stating “Complaint”. Every lawsuit has a beginning, which happens outside of court. Now, it has struck home, because the papers state that “you have been served” and that you have “twenty” days in order to reply to this complaint.

Service of process is the procedure which a party to a lawsuit gives an appropriate notice of initial legal action to another party, such as a defendant, court or administrative body, in an effort to exercise jurisdiction over that person so as to enable that person to respond to the proceeding.

Before responding to the pending lawsuit, you must ask yourself, have I really been served? Florida Statute Section 48.031 governs service of process, and it creates and allows multiple ways to serve a complaint correctly. Florida allows for both personal service by a process server, and substitute service which allows the process server to leave the documents with another responsible individual of a suitable age at your home. In some cases a person may be served by publication in a newspaper, or by mail. While Florida allows for multiple ways to serve another person, there are common issues which may affect the validity of the service:

1. The Clerk of Court or a deputies must have signed it;
2. It contains the Clerk’s seal;
3. The correct case caption;
4. The defendant is sued by their correct name;
5. The date of return and other required information is given;
6. The name and address of the party or lawyer causing the process to be issued is stated;
7. If the defendant is an organization, the correct officer or registered agent is served, rather than the organization.

Should does not fail simply because it lacks one of these requirements; however it may be grounds for it to be challenged. When you are served with a lawsuit, it is critical that you seek the guidance of an attorney in order to protect your rights. The Ticktin Law Group is a full service law firm which specializes in resolving these matters.