The following is a continuation of the interview that I had with our process server, Joe, regarding the subject of process service [see Parts One and Two of the interview, posted July 5, 2011 and September 20, 2011 respectively]. The items covered in this portion address some of the “ups, downs and run arounds” in the field.
What is the biggest obstacle in attempting to serve summons/Writ of possession on a party?
For the most part, a bad address and getting the party to open their door. Approaching a residence with an open front door is my best case scenario…a closed door with a party in the house usually means there will be resistance in getting them to open the door. The current economical times also create a problem inasmuch as individuals are getting smarter at avoiding service and have become numb to the process.
Is there a trick to getting people to answer the door?
I find that using an informal approach works best. In today’s world there is a higher level of fear for people insofar as answering the door to their home. It’s been helpful to me to use a friendly attitude from the moment I enter the party’s neighborhood. Quite often there are neighbors outside, the local postal carrier, home improvement workers…the more I look like I belong there too, the better success that I have. Without disclosing the nature of my presence, encountering people in the neighborhood also provides me with an opportunity to talk to them and get a feel for the type of individual that I am about to approach as well as get an idea of whether or not the collateral has been seen in the area. Neighbors talk to each other, so quite often they will convey a message to the party to be served that I am not to be feared.
How do you handle service of a party in a large apartment complex where access may be an issue due to security policies, or, at an employment location?
Making contact with a Security guard and developing a good rapport with them provides for the best advantage in breaking down any barrier or gaining useful information about the party’s existence in the building. It has also been my experience to just wait around and gain entry by “piggy backing” off another entering party. Generally, my approach will be dependant on whether or not the party is listed on the directory. If they are not, then I will speak with the leasing office to determine if further effort is beneficial. Insofar as employment locations, it gets tricky, because not all employers will allow access to it’s employees, so that’s pretty cut and dry. Smaller employers are not a problem. If I sense that an employer is covering for the party, persistence and respect are my best tools for gaining access to the party.
What if the individual being served refuses to accept the summons?
Nothing can be done and other methods of service [certified mail, etc.] are initiated by the attorney handling the case.
What is the typical response from someone who has received a summons?
Ninety five percent of the individuals acknowledge that they knew the summons was coming. Many of the individuals are actually repeat offenders and known to me from previous service attempts, so they greet me as a person familiar to them.
I did have an occasion where an individual actually called me to thank me for treating him with respect and dignity at a difficult time in his life…he had my contact information that I had previously left with a neighbor. When I finally served him, he told me that he was getting cancer treatments and wondered if he could have additional time to resolve the matter and I assisted in getting him the information he needed to contact the party who initiated the matter pending against him.