Scenarios that unfold when people answer the door to a process server.
When someone answers the door to a process server, several scenarios can unfold. Here are some possible scenarios:
Acceptance of Documents: The person calmly accepts the documents handed over by the process server. This could be court summons, subpoenas, legal notices, or other legal documents. They may acknowledge receipt by signing a form although this is not a requirement in Florida. Process service in Florida is delivery of the papers and not acceptance and confirmation by way if a signature.
Cooperative Response: The person might be aware of the legal matter and may cooperate with the process server, accepting the documents without resistance. They may even contact the process server to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet to accept the papers.
Refusal to Accept: The person refuses to accept the documents and may try to avoid the server by not opening the door or stating that they are not the intended recipient. In some jurisdictions, refusing to accept documents may not prevent legal proceedings from moving forward. Refusal of the papers will not prevent legal proceedings in Florida for the reasons stated above.
Evasive or Hostile Behavior: This is less common than you might expect. I am frequently asked about war stories when I tell people that I am a process server. The truth of the matter is that this hostility just doesn’t happen very often. Don’t get me wrong, it happens. In fact, it is extremely rare to find a process server who has been serving for a long time, who has not had an “unpleasant encounter.” That said, it just doesn’t happen very often. The person might react angrily or become hostile upon realizing that the server is delivering legal documents. They may shout, argue, attempt to intimidate the process server, or even physically attack the process server. Sadly, there are no shortage of horrible stories of process servers even being shot, just for doing their job.
Attempting to Flee: In some cases, the person might try to evade the process server by quickly leaving the premises or hiding to avoid being served. In Florida, this is not going to help. If the server serves you with the papers and you react by running away, you are still served.
False Information: The person might provide misleading information about their identity or deny being the person named in the documents. This is why it is important to have as much current information about the person being served before attempting. I personally feel that a recent clear photo of the subject is the best option. I personally find it amusing when someone who has their picture all over the internet, tries to deny their identity. 😊
Recording the Interaction: It's not uncommon for either party to record the interaction, especially if there are concerns about misrepresentation, harassment, or disputed events. At yearly Miami-Dade County process service license recertification, we are told it is not appropriate to record people inside their house and to just not do it. I happen to agree with this rule. That said, it is becoming more and more common for people to immediately record process servers serving them with the papers. I happen to welcome this because their video just confirms the process was served and if they move to quash service, I hope the submit the video to help me out. LOL!
Request for More Information: This one is the most common reaction. The person may ask the server for more information about the documents being served, seeking clarification on the legal matter. While we do not provide legal advice, I always tell them how much time they have to respond, where to file their response, and to mail a copy of their answer to the attorney who requested the service.
Actions after being served:
Seeking Legal Advice: After receiving the documents, the person may choose to consult with an attorney to understand the implications and potential legal actions they need to take. For example, if the service of the process was not per the letter of the law, the attorney may petition the court to quash service.
Immediate Legal Action: In some cases, the served individual may be prepared to take immediate legal action, such as filing a response or counterclaim.
Ignoring the Situation: Some individuals might choose to ignore the served documents, which can lead to default judgments if they do not respond within the required timeframe.
While some individuals may react with hostility when being served legal documents due to the stress or emotions associated with the situation, most people respond in a calm and composed manner. This is because they may understand that receiving legal documents is a normal part of the legal process, and they recognize the importance of addressing the matter appropriately. It's important for process servers to approach their tasks with professionalism, respect, and sensitivity, regardless of the recipient's demeanor. This helps maintain a civil and orderly process, even in potentially tense situations. Additionally, staying informed about local laws and regulations regarding process serving can help ensure that the process is conducted correctly and legally. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.