After a party files a lawsuit against another individual or company, Florida law requires that the filing party formally notify that individual of the lawsuit. This formal notice is called “service of process.” This requirement is in place to make sure defendants are given an opportunity to appear before the court and properly defend the matter brought against them.
Methods of Service
Under Florida Law there are several methods of service that can be utilized to serve a Defendant.
Generally, the preferred method of service is personal service. Personal service involves an individual (called a process server) personally handing a copy of the legal papers (called the summons and complaint) to the person that is being sued. This is the best way to put the defendant on notice, because the process server can personally see the defendant’s receipt of the legal papers.
If for some reason the defendant cannot be served face to face, Florida law allows for defendants to be served by “drop service”. This can be accomplished by leaving the legal papers at the defendant’s home with an individual that is at least 15 years old, with an explanation about what the papers mean.
Service by Mail
In certain cases, papers can also be served on the defendant by certified mail.
Knowing of this requirement, some defendants go to great lengths to ensure that they do not receive service. So, what happens when the person you are trying to sue is conveniently always unavailable to receive papers? Or what if the physical address of the defendant is unknown?
Florida law provides that individuals who conceal their whereabouts can be served using substituted service under certain circumstances. To utilize substitute service, a litigant must show that the process server has exercised due diligence in personally serving the defendant but has been unable to effectuate service. The law considers due diligence to be “an honest and conscientious effort” to acquire and use whatever knowledge necessary to find the defendant and to make an appropriate number of attempts to notify the defendant of the suit. See Fla. Stat. § 48.161.
There are a variety of ways that substituted service can be accomplished. For example, if the only address known is a private mailbox, virtual office, or an executive office, the process server can leave a copy of the papers with the person in charge of the mailbox or office. See Fla. Stat. § 48.031 (6)(a). Depending on the circumstances, service by publication, such as by putting a notice in the newspaper, may be sufficient notice. See Fla. Stat. § 49.011. Process may also be served by filing with the Secretary of State. See Fla. Stat. § 48.161.
Substitute service of process can be an important tool to accomplish proper service of a lawsuit on a defendant who may be attempting to conceal his/her whereabouts or worse, intentionally dodging service of process. It’s important that you hire the right lawyer who can help you understand your options and how best to serve a difficult defendant. For information regarding your ability to bring a suit, schedule a consultation with Boatman Ricci at 239-330-1494.
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