Small claims procedural questions

So, I am suinga national cell-phone company in small claims in California. The court date was today. I showed up and was gleefully to surprised they did not show up. “Aha! A default judgment! Just hope the judge thinks I have a decent case.” During roll call the clerk said my summons was not properly served.

I figured this could not be. I grabbed their agent for service’s address from the CA Secretary of State’s website, paid the court an additional $10 to send a certified summons, and even got a call from the company I sued offering to settle.

So the judge tossed me out, said I could ask for the hearing to be reset, and have the company properly served in the meantime. She noted that my statement that I had received a settlement offer, even had it on voice mail, but since the green return receipt card was not in the case folder she could not certify proper service.

I went to the clerk’s office to investigate and found that they had indeed mailed ut the summons, but did not receive anything back from the USPS.

I was under the impression that as soon as the clerk dropped the notice addressed to the company’s agent for service agent for service that “service” had been completed, but it’s become quite evident to me that I’m not correct in this understanding.

I also got the article number from the Post Office, which upon checking on their website indicates notice was delivered two days after it was mailed. So it would appear I will be able to produce proof of service, and theoretically should get my time in front of the judge without the other party having any opporunity to present their case since they did not show up today-- correct?

Also, what’s the Straight Dope on using post office boxes for service? The clerk told me that PO boxes were generally frowned upon as valid addresses for service-- yet every major corporation I’ve looked up so far is using a PO box, and it would seem to me that the Secretary of State has a responsibility to ensure that whatever addresses are being supplied by these companies will be acceptable to courts across the state. Am I off-base on that?

IANAL and I think this is the sort of question that lawyers aren’t going to answer for you on a message board. But since you’re pro se in small claims court and since this website is pretty worthless, what else are you gonna do? So I’ll say this: you need to read California Code Section 415.20(a) . That should answer your question. But you know what they about taking legal advice off the internet, right? You’re much better off talking to a lawyer in your area. Even a phone call to legal services might be fruitful. Maybe you’ll catch a legal intern on a slow day and they’ll give you a hand.

Good Luck.

Oh yeah, I should have disclaimered that. Not looking for any legal advice at all, just a nudge in the right direction of something set in stone that I can try to apply to my circumstances (the link to the CCCP was quite helpful, thank you by the way).

It seems the service was OK under the code, and that certified mail isn’t even a requirement, simply first class and a statement from someone other than me saying they mailed it (which the clerk did put in the folder).

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to argue with the judge. I’m going to the post office tomorrow to get some kind of substantiation that the article was delivered, and then it’s back to the clerk to see about going before the judge again.

I believe that service by mail, even when it is allowed, is only proper when the served party sends a formal acknowledgment of service (i.e. the specific court form). It isn’t clear to me whether you can serve a corporate agent by mail alone, but even if you could, you’d run into the problem above.

I understand the CCCP (what an ironic acronym) cite to be saying that in lieu of personal service, you must physically leave a copy of the summons as well as mail it, and this cannot be done at a PO box.

Aside from reading through more of the CCCP to figure this out, have you tried talking to the clerks about how to get this done properly?

Yup, they said I could hire a professional process server or have the sheriff up in Sacramento do it.

I see now I misread and see it specifically states a PO box is unkosher.

Why the hell would the SoS allow them to register a PO box as their address for service??