You have likely heard the phrase ‘You’ve been served’ on TV or in film at some point, and while often integral to the plot it seems strange that few of us really know what it means or why it is happening.
Typically (on the screen at least) it involves someone being tricked into admitting who they are, either by flirting at a bar or signing for a faux delivery, and then being handed a brown envelope. The contents of this envelope reveal they have been summoned to court and the recipient is normally very annoyed about the whole thing.
But what has really happened here?
Process serving is an important part of the legal system as it ensures that no-one can file a lawsuit against someone else without their knowledge. This is particularly important in examples like divorce or if you are suing an individual or a business. It also prevents the party you are taking to court from saying they were unaware of the summons and avoiding the whole thing altogether.
Process serving is there to protect both parties. If you file a lawsuit against someone who refuses to appear in court, the judge may still rule in your favour if you are able to show that the accused party has been made aware of the case. You have held up your end of the bargain so-to-speak. Likewise, if you have been accused of something but can prove that you were never properly served and therefore unable to defend yourself in court, a judge may take that into consideration when deciding on a ruling.
Process servers will not necessarily implement disguises and tricks to do the job. If it is in both party’s interest to remain amicable, this type of deception is not necessary and can undermine the legal process. Publicly dropping divorce papers on someone’s desk at work in front of everyone may be satisfying in some cases but not always necessary. A simple visit to their home may suffice. You may even be able to do this yourself without a process server’s intervention.
In some cases, however, the defendant may be aware that you are trying to serve them a court summons and avoid you entirely. This makes life very difficult and, in legal terms, will hold up a case going to court. It is the equivalent of someone sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending they are not listening – and it works! This is why hiring a process server may be a necessary step in your case.
What is the PI’s role?
As a Private Investigator and a process server, I can figure out the best way to reach a person who is avoiding a summons. By using my specialist resources and PI tactics, I find the best way to approach them without raising suspicion. Chatting to a stranger at the gym, for example, may not immediately raise alarm bells. Being able to use this kind of covert technique gives me the upper-hand in such cases. Once the job has been completed, I am then able to testify that the defendant has been served accordingly and you can continue court proceedings uninhibited.
Hiring a professional third party to physically hand someone papers is the best way to prove that you have done your due diligence in process serving. And, yes, we do really get to say ‘You’ve been served’!