What Exactly Can a Process Server Do to Serve Papers?

When someone files a lawsuit against an individual or party, it’s important that the target of their lawsuit be aware of the legal action against them. A case cannot proceed if a defendant isn’t aware of a pending lawsuit.

A defendant must be served with court papers before a lawsuit can begin. A process server is often employed to deliver these papers.

Many are often unsure of what a process server can and can’t do to let someone know they are being sued. This overview will explain what you need to know.

You Can’t Merely Avoid a Process Server

It’s not always easy for a process server to find the party they’ve been hired to serve. Some assume that they can avoid lawsuits against them by avoiding a process server.

This is not the case. Process servers have a variety of methods to find the target of a lawsuit. A process server in Missouri can employ any of the following methods without necessarily violating the law:

Taking Creative Steps

Process servers have been known to wait outside of the workplaces or residences of individuals who are trying to avoid service. In the digital age, it’s easier than ever for process servers to research where they may find a person when they are not in their home.

Leaving Papers With a Family Member

Missouri law allows process servers to leave court papers with family members who share the same household with the defendant — as long as the person is over 15 years old. 

Mail

It is also legally permissible for a process server to mail court papers to the target of a lawsuit if other methods prove ineffective. Depending on the circumstances, they may have to request permission from a judge to do so. Regardless, this highlights how difficult it can be to avoid a process server.

What a Process Server May Not Do

There are certain actions process servers may not take to serve court papers. They include:

Searching a Mailbox

It is generally considered unethical and illegal to search someone’s mailbox to confirm they are receiving mail at a particular address. Thus, a process server likely won’t be able to look through your mail to make sure they have identified the right address if you’re being sued.

Lying

Some pop culture depictions of process servers have given people the impression that they can lie about who they are or why they are approaching you. For example, some believe that process servers can pretend to be law enforcement officers in order to serve papers. In reality, this is not allowed.

Trespassing

A process server can never break the law to serve someone with court papers. That means they can’t trespass on your property. They also can’t enter your home without your permission. Additionally, they can’t force or coerce you into accepting papers.

This information isn’t just important for those who are being sued to understand. You should also be familiar with the way in which a process server operates if you are considering filing a claim or lawsuit against someone else. Typically, your attorney will handle serving court documents on an opposing party.

A lawyer will be familiar with the procedural requirements for serving papers. They can also challenge a person’s improper attempts to serve you with documents.

Of course, you will hopefully never need to enlist the help of a process server. Just be aware that it’s very difficult for someone to avoid a lawsuit by ignoring a process server’s attempts to serve papers.