One of the basic tenets of our judicial system is that someone cannot be sued unless they have been advised of the lawsuit so they may have the opportunity to appear in court and defend themselves. Although there are some exceptions to the general rule—such as service by publication when a defendant cannot be found—for the most part if you wish to initiate a civil action against someone, you must be certain that you comply with the Florida rules of civil procedure relating to service of process.
What is service of process?
Service of process is a legal term of art that essentially means officially notifying someone that they are being sued. There is a procedure which must be followed in order for the court to properly exercise personal jurisdiction over the person. If this procedure is not followed, the person can raise the defense of insufficient service of process (or no service of process, depending on the situation) and have your lawsuit delayed or even dismissed altogether.
An exploration of the various laws regulating service of process is beyond the scope of this post; however, suffice to say, there is a very specific set of actions that must be taken in order for the court to exercise jurisdiction over the defendant in a lawsuit. If you fail to take these actions, you will likely find yourself frustrated when your day in court comes and the judge refuses to hear your case.
How may I ensure I have service of process?
Again, a full exploration of the various methods of obtaining service is beyond the scope of this post; however, probably the simplest way to make sure that you comply with the statutes is to hire a professional process server.
A process server will take the documents that you need to have served and will serve the defendant pursuant to the relevant statutes. Then he or she will bring you proof that it has been done so you can show the court that the defendant has been properly served.
Although hiring a process server does cost more than attempting to do it yourself, the payoff in reduced frustration and a shorter waiting period until you can present your case in court is well worth the extra money you may have to pay.
If you are suing someone, make sure you properly serve them in order to save yourself frustration at the courthouse.