Service occurs when an adverse party is given a summons and complaint stating that a lawsuit has been filed. A summons is essentially a request to appear before the court and a complaint is a document that lays out the reason why someone is getting sued. A summons and complaint will state the party suing you. If you are being served, you are getting sued and are considered the “defendant”. If you are the person filing the lawsuit, you are considered the “plaintiff”.
Without proper service to a defendant, a case cannot begin. It is the plaintiff’s responsibility to serve the defendant and can do so in a couple of ways. Personal service is the easiest way to serve someone. “Personal service” is exactly what it sounds like someone serves you personally with the summons and complaint. This person serving should be a sheriff, a deputy, or anyone over the age of eighteen (18) who is not an attorney or party to the case. Service can also be provided through certified mail, commercial delivery service, or, on certain occasions, email. Certified mail just refers to mail that provides the sender with a mailing receipt and electronic verification that an article was delivered or that delivery was attempted. Commercial delivery service means someone is getting paid for service. Email can be used for service on select matters and currently cannot be used for purposes of summons and complaints. If certified mail or commercial delivery service fails, it is the filing party’s responsibility to go through personal service measures to properly serve and continue the case.
You can be served anywhere. Your house, your work, your gym, walking in the park, stepping onto an airplane. However, the most likely place to be served is at your last known address. Even if you no longer live there, that service is likely to still be considered proper. It is important to keep your address up to date on all relevant documents (i.e. your driver’s license, your bank accounts, your insurance, etc.). You can also be served in a foreign country, so long as the server follows that country’s rules, personal service guidelines, or a relevant international treaty’s rules.
Service can still be proper even when it is not served upon the defendant. Service can be given to that person’s lawyer or a person in the house where they live (so long as they are older than 14 and competent). If a person is imprisoned or institutionalized, personal service is not possible. In this case, the proprietor of the establishment (i.e. the warden, the manager, etc.) would then be served by a sheriff and the warden or manager would then make it known to the confined person.
Without proper service, our legal system does not work. Defendants would not be properly notified and default judgments (a judgment against the defending party for failing to answer) would be entered left and right. Defendants need to know they are being sued so that they may be able to defend themselves. To see a full explanation of the rules of service, please see the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure Rules 4, 4.1, and 5.
At King Law Offices, we understand the challenges involved in any family law matter. Our goal is to help guide you through this process and listen to your concerns. Contact King Law at 888-748-KING (5464) for a consultation. We have offices located across western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. We are here to serve you and to guide you as we navigate this journey together.