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Small-Claims Court Experience, Part 2

Turns out, it’s easy to file in small-claims court.  It’s much easier than I thought it’d be.  Just see this site:

https://www.lawhelpinteractive.org/

They have a walk-through which took me step-by-step through the whole thing, then generates a legal document that you can just print out.  That was the easy part.  The hard part is getting the defendant served.  From the instructions:

Giving Notice of Your Claim to the Defendant

You must give notice of your claim to the defendant. The procedure for giving notice to the defendant is called service of process. If service of process is completed correctly, and the defendant doesn’t answer your claim, the judge can give you a default judgment. The judge cannot give you a default judgment if service of process is not completed correctly. If there is more than one defendant, you must serve process on each defendant. If the defendants are husband and wife, you must serve process on each spouse.

Service of process should be completed within 30 days after you file your claim. In most counties, if you do not complete service of process within 30 days, your claim will be dismissed. If your claim is dismissed for lack of service, you can reopen your case by re-filing your claim. If you reopen your case within six months after you first filed your claim, you won’t have to pay another filing fee.

There are two basic ways to serve process: certified mail and personal delivery by a non-party. Service of process is complete when the court clerk receives a certified mail return receipt signed by the defendant, or an Idaho Sheriff’s Return of Service or an Affidavit of Service stating when and how the defendant was served.

a. Certified Mail

You can ask the court clerk to serve process on the defendant by certified mail. The court clerk will charge you a fee. The court clerk will mail the papers to the defendant, return receipt requested. If the court clerk does not receive a return receipt signed by the defendant, you will have to try a different way to serve process. Service of process by certified mail costs less than the other methods to serve process, but is often not completed because the defendant did not sign the return receipt.

b. Sheriff’s Office

In most counties, you can ask the sheriff’s office to serve process on the defendant. (Some counties have a marshal’s office that will serve process in small claims cases.) You will have to pay a fee, and you will have to provide information on where the defendant can be found. The sheriff’s office will not investigate to find the defendant for you.

In some counties, the court clerk will collect the fee for the sheriff, and give the papers to the sheriff’s office that are to be served on the defendant. In other counties, the court clerk will give you the papers, and you will have to take the papers to the sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office will prepare a “Sheriff’s Return of Service,” stating when and how the defendant was served, or that the sheriff was not able to deliver the papers. Some sheriff’s offices will file the return with the court clerk, others will give you the return to file with the court clerk.

c. Private Process Server

You can ask a private process server to serve process on the defendant. You can find them in the phone book. You will have to pay a fee, and you will have to provide information on where the defendant can be found. If you don’t know where the defendant can be found, some process servers offer investigative services. The process server will charge more to find the defendant for you.

The court clerk will give you the papers to be served on the defendant, and you will have to take them to the process server. Once the process server has delivered the papers to the defendant, the process server will prepare an “Affidavit of Service” stating when and how the defendant was served. If the process server was not able to deliver the papers, the affidavit will say so.

Some process servers will file the affidavit with the court clerk, some will give it to you to file. Service of process is not complete until the affidavit, stating when and how the defendant was served, is filed with the court clerk.

d. Any Person Not a Party and Over 18

You can ask any person who is at least 18 years old and not a party to your case to serve process on the defendant. You can get an Affidavit of Service from the court clerk. The server will complete the Affidavit after serving the defendant. You will have to file the completed Affidavit of Service with the court clerk.

Does anyone have any advice on which method is the best?

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