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  1. #1

    Default What to Do if You're Unable to Serve Court Papers

    My question involves small claims court in the state of: Alabama

    A year ago an uninsured driver caused $800 of damage to my car. They were at fault. A police report was taken and they were ticketed. I was unable to go through my insurance to pay for the damages. The other driver promised to pay for the damage but they have refused to cooperate with our multiple attempts to work something out over the past year.

    I filed suit in small claims court a few weeks ago and found out today that the sheriff has been unable to serve the papers to the other driver after multiple attempts. He's apparently living with his girlfriend and used her address for his license. I feel pretty sure he's still living there because I called their home phone number to try work something out one last time about a month before I filed the suit and he was the one that picked up the phone. I also know where he works.

    What do I do now?

    Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
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    18,340

    Default Re: Unable to Serve Papers

    Hire a private process server.

    They don't get paid until they successfully serve the papers and they can be a lot more creative than a public employee who has less incentive.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Unable to Serve Papers

    The first thing to do is check with the court, as some small claims courts require service by a deputy or court officer (I've not researched your state or county) and would go from the deputy's return of service, reciting a good faith effort to serve that nonetheless failed, to authorizing substituted service (public posting, service by mail, etc.)

    A private process server (a category that includes deputies and court officers who serve papers privately once their shifts end) will typically charge for every trip out to the defendant's home or workplace. While you can generally recover fees for service of process if you prevail in your case, as a taxable cost, how confident are you that this defendant is actually going to pay you money even if you win?

    Have you spoken with the deputy who attempted service?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    19,901

    Default Re: Unable to Serve Papers

    I believe in Alabama if personal service is refused, you can get the court to send the papers by certified mail instead (this is in contrast to some other states where the sheriff would just tape the papers to the front door if no adult answers). You also have the option of a private process server.

  5. #5
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    Feb 2014
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    Default Re: What to Do if You're Unable to Serve Court Papers

    Quote Quoting legalconfusion
    View Post
    My question involves small claims court in the state of: Alabama

    A year ago an uninsured driver caused $800 of damage to my car. They were at fault. A police report was taken and they were ticketed. I was unable to go through my insurance to pay for the damages. The other driver promised to pay for the damage but they have refused to cooperate with our multiple attempts to work something out over the past year.

    I filed suit in small claims court a few weeks ago and found out today that the sheriff has been unable to serve the papers to the other driver after multiple attempts. He's apparently living with his girlfriend and used her address for his license. I feel pretty sure he's still living there because I called their home phone number to try work something out one last time about a month before I filed the suit and he was the one that picked up the phone. I also know where he works.

    What do I do now?

    Thanks for any help.
    Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure


    (Note: Links to any private firm have been provided as a courtesy and for informative purposes only.)

  6. #6

    Default Re: What to Do if You're Unable to Serve Court Papers

    Thanks for the help so far.

    I have not contacted the deputy that attempted to serve and I was not aware that was possible. How would I get the contact info of the deputy that tried to serve the papers? If I contacted them, what information would I be trying to get from them?

    When I initially filed the papers I just put the address listed on the police report. Could I get the deputy to attempt to serve at this person's place of employment if I'm able to figure out what days and hours he works there?

    If I tried an alternate method of serving, such as certified mail, where should I have it sent to? The home address or place of employment?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: What to Do if You're Unable to Serve Court Papers

    You don't just try whatever. In a link given to you you can find out what the court accepts. Read the rules

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