What happens if someone continually evades a process server?

Imagine someone is trying to serve you with court documents that you are being sued and you go to great lengths to avoid being served.

Can you evade a lawsuit forever by doing this?

This is what prompted this question:

IIRC, if you do good-faith go-through-the-motions stuff and come up empty, you can then serve notice by putting it in the newspaper.

Eventually, Dominion would have gone back to the judge with documentation of their attempts at service and asked for permission to serve via alternative means, which might for example include taping the documents to the front door of his office building or emailing them or posting notice on the court’s own website or publishing a notice in the newspaper. There have even been cases where the judge allowed service via Twitter.

Thanks.

I guess I was confused that Giuliani would do this since he certainly knows (I would think since he is an attorney who is also likely being advised by other attorneys) that dodging the process server will not ultimately protect him from the lawsuit. It suggested that was some purpose to this beyond just being difficult.

It’s just a stupid thing to do. These problems don’t go away because you hide from the process server. In fact, in federal court you can get hit with fees and costs for refusing to waive formal service under some conditions:

(d) Waiving Service.
(1) Requesting a Waiver. An individual, corporation, or association that is subject to service under Rule 4(e), (f), or (h) has a duty to avoid unnecessary expenses of serving the summons. The plaintiff may notify such a defendant that an action has been commenced and request that the defendant waive service of a summons. The notice and request must:

(A) be in writing and be addressed:

(i) to the individual defendant; or

(ii) for a defendant subject to service under Rule 4(h), to an officer, a managing or general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process;

(B) name the court where the complaint was filed;

© be accompanied by a copy of the complaint, 2 copies of the waiver form appended to this Rule 4, and a prepaid means for returning the form;

(D) inform the defendant, using the form appended to this Rule 4, of the consequences of waiving and not waiving service;

(E) state the date when the request is sent;

(F) give the defendant a reasonable time of at least 30 days after the request was sent—or at least 60 days if sent to the defendant outside any judicial district of the United States—to return the waiver; and

(G) be sent by first-class mail or other reliable means.

(2) Failure to Waive. If a defendant located within the United States fails, without good cause, to sign and return a waiver requested by a plaintiff located within the United States, the court must impose on the defendant:

(A) the expenses later incurred in making service; and

(B) the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, of any motion required to collect those service expenses.

The point of service is to provide notice of the lawsuit. If you are evading service, you certainly know the lawsuit exists, and so the purpose of service has been accomplished. The process server could file an affidavit asserting that you are evading service, and the court could order you deemed served, with some amount of time to reply.

I’ve wondered a little bit what would happen if somebody appears to be deliberately avoiding being served, but actually isn’t.

For example, say you’re a self-employed consultant of some kind, or an insurance agent. Some such people work out of their homes, but they go out at irregular intervals to meet with clients. It could, just by sheer randomness and coincidence, be quite difficult for a process server to track down such a person.

The converse is kind of funny too. My wife was an attorney who did a lot of small business corporate formations. Which meant that whenever one of them got sued or ran afoul of some taxing or licensing agency we’d get served process on their behalf. She worked out of an office in our large house long before WFH was common.

So about once a week we had a process server ring the doorbell, get antsy because it took a couple minutes to get from the office to the door, then try to shove the papers into my hands while muttering something incomprehensible. Bottom line being: trying to fool the homeowner into grasping the papers before figuring out what the papers were so the server could run away in success before they got shot at or beaten.

They were uniformly mystified when I gave them a cheery “Thank you! Do you want me to sign for them? See you next week!” To wife those papers represented revenue, not a problem, and I was happy to sign for them. Caught the servers totally off guard it did.

Same. Process servers were startled by our appreciation that they’d brought us the documents.

Not quite the same as serving notice of a lawsuit, DesertWife was subpoenaed as a witness in a case where some people she had worked for were accused of tax fraud. We had no idea this was coming but when the server was banging on the door at 7am on a Sunday. We didn’t answer as we were not expecting anyone.

The papers were found under the wipers of the car in the carport and we debated whether that constituted proper service. In the end, like the consensus of this thread we decided playing games would only piss off the court and she showed up at the appointed time.

The intention of the person who is to be served isn’t really the issue. They may be (a) deliberately evading service, or (b) laying low for unrelated reasons, but this is making service difficult, or © just be living an unpredictable life which makes them hard to pin down. Either way, you go back to the court and say, e.g., “we’ve tried repeatedly to serve him in the usual way, without success. Can we email the stuff to him at this address which we know he uses, and also leave a copy with his mother who we know is in touch with him?” The key facts are that the normal methods of service aren’t effective, and that there’s a non-standard method that is very likely to be effective. Whether the normal methods are ineffective because the person is motivated to make them ineffective or for other reasons isn’t a central issue.

I did wonder about this myself, but as they say, the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour.

Though Rudy used to be a good lawyer 30 years ago, a whole lot of things have changed in his head and much of his behavior today can no longer be assumed to be logical and well-advised even by laymen’s standards.

His refusing service of a lawsuit that’s been front page news for weeks which tens of millions of people know about makes about as much sense as his decision of which golfing stories to tell despite the level of scrutiny he’s been under for years.

In short, we can’t assume much legal thought behind many of Rudy’s recent decisions.

Service doesn’t have to be through a process server, it can come through registered mail as well. That seems to be the case fairly often for small claims and debt.

If that doesn’t work, then it is often okay’d that regular mail will suffice.

I don’t know if that’s how it plays out for 1.7 billion dollar lawsuits, but that seems to be the pattern when I get court orders to garnish an employee’s wages.

Every court system has its own rules for how papers must be served, and often those rules are different depending on what stage of the action (the initial petition and summons, for example, may have to be served by different means than a garnishment order later in the same case).

Of course, there’s also the implied question in the OP (and lightly touched upon by various responses here): Are there any legal penalties or other repercussions against the servee who evades service? If so, then I would expect that intent would be relevant.

If the judge is satisfied that you were given notice and you don’t respond, the plantiff can request a default judgement. If this is granted, the plantiff wins the case and you lose your chance to defend yourself.

When I have received an order for garnishment, I look into the history of these employees from the county clerk’s office that the order came from. (Much easier in these days of online.)

I am not prying, I am doing this to answer their questions. The first time I told an employee that I had an order to garnish their wages, they wanted to know who from, and what it was about, this was the first they had heard of it and all that. Now, when I present them with the garnishment, I also present them with all the information about why there is a garnishment.

And the vast majority of the time I’ll see this:

Docket

"Service: SUMMONS BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Method: SERVICE BY CERTIFIED MAIL

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY CERTIFIED MAIL ISSUED.

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY CERTIFIED MAIL

RETURN ON FAILURE OF CERTIFIED MAIL:
Method : SERVICE BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Issued : xx/29/20xx
Service : SUMMONS BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Served :
Return : xx/27/20xx

Reason : FAILURE OF CERTIFIED MAIL
Comment : UNCLAIMED

Service: NOTICE OF SERVICE FAILURE BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Method: SERVICE BY ORDINARY MAIL

NOTICE OF FAILURE OF CERTIFIED MAIL SERVICE ISSUED.

FAILURE BY CERTIFIED MAIL


Service: SUMMONS BY ORDINARY MAIL
Method: SERVICE BY ORDINARY MAIL

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY ORDINARY MAIL ISSUED. CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FILED.

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY ORDINARY MAIL

"Service: SUMMONS BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Method: SERVICE BY CERTIFIED MAIL

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY CERTIFIED MAIL ISSUED.

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY CERTIFIED MAIL

RETURN ON FAILURE OF CERTIFIED MAIL:
Method : SERVICE BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Issued : xx/29/20xx
Service : SUMMONS BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Served :
Return : xx/27/20xx

Reason : FAILURE OF CERTIFIED MAIL
Comment : UNCLAIMED

Service: NOTICE OF SERVICE FAILURE BY CERTIFIED MAIL
Method: SERVICE BY ORDINARY MAIL

NOTICE OF FAILURE OF CERTIFIED MAIL SERVICE ISSUED.

FAILURE BY CERTIFIED MAIL


Service: SUMMONS BY ORDINARY MAIL
Method: SERVICE BY ORDINARY MAIL

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY ORDINARY MAIL ISSUED. CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FILED.

SUMMONS ON COMPLAINT BY ORDINARY MAIL

CERTIFICATE OF MAILING RETURNED UPON xxx xxx AND FILED.

“x’s” added by myself to remove any identifying details.

That’s all over a period of about 5-6 months.

They always tell me they never received a summons, and that the debt is bullshit. They try to tell me that I can’t or shouldn’t garnish their check, but I don’t really have much of a choice at that point.

Anyway, point is, is that they only have to make a good faith effort of serving you, once they have done that, they can consider you to be served.

Exactly.

If you ever get served with a notice about bad debt, show up.

You won’t get out of it by ignoring it, and just showing up can let you contest at least part of it and get them to settle for a lower amount.

If you have any evidence that some or all of the debt doesn’t belong to you, even better. They basically have to prove that it does, so you can actually get out of a bunch of it if it doesn’t have your verified signature on it.

Slightly off-topic, but at common law, a partnership could not sue or be sued in its own (“corporate”) name, instead the suit needed to be in the name of the individual partners.

At least according to my Corporations professor, various partnerships would include a partner who would live in some obscure, inaccessible backwater (e.g., Ireland) so that the “partnership” could avoid being sued without running into a joinder problem. (This also became a problem with unincorporated labor unions in the United States in the early 1900s).

Anyway, I don’t actually know if that’s right (and “corporate personhood” has largely eliminated the issue), but I felt like sharing.