How to sue someone you cant find

If the judge is not convinced that the defendant was served, you may not be able to obtain a judgment in the event the defendant does not appear. If your server charged a fee for service and you paid it, make sure that the fee is mentioned in the Form SC If there is no service fee listed in the Form SC, you may not receive your service costs in your judgment even though you paid a server. With two exceptions, service of process must be made within the boundaries of the State of California. The following kinds of defendants need not be served within the State:.

A representative who appears in small claims court on behalf of a defendant should bring to the hearing a completed and signed Authorization to Appear on Behalf of a Party Form SC Since out-of-state corporations and partnerships that operate in California usually designate a California agent for service of process because they are legally required to do so , you may be able to meet the in- state service requirement by serving the corporation's agent for service of process.

You can obtain the name of an agent for service of process of a corporation or other entity that has registered with the California Secretary of State by calling or or visiting the Secretary of State's Web site at www. One reason is that the defendant may refuse to accept delivery or to sign a receipt for delivery.

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Another is that if the defendant doesn't appear at the hearing, the judge may refuse to hear the case unless the judge determines that it is actually the defendant who signed the return receipt. Frequently, the signature on the return receipt is illegible, or someone other than the defendant signed. If the return receipt is the only evidence of the defendant's signature, and there is no other evidence to show that the signature is actually the defendant's, the judge may ask that you serve another copy of your claim form.

In that event, a new hearing date will need to be set. In the case of an individual defendant-To the defendant in person, or to someone that the defendant has specifically authorized to receive service of process.

Identifying Who to Sue

In the case of a partnership-To 1 a general partner, 2 the general manager of the partnership, or 3 an individual or entity that the partnership has designated as its agent for service of process. In the case of a corporation-To 1 the president or other head of the corporation, 2 a vice president, 3 a secretary or assistant secretary, 4 a treasurer or assistant treasurer, 5 a general manager or manager in charge of a location, such as a chain grocery store , 6 an individual or entity that the corporation has designated as its agent for service of process, or 7 any other person authorized to receive service of process.

In the case of a minor-To the minor's parent or guardian or, if no such person can be found with reasonable diligence, to any person having the care or control of the minor, or with whom the minor resides, or by whom the minor is employed. If the minor is age 12 or older, a copy of the claim also must be delivered to the minor. Basic rules-To serve a defendant in your case by substituted service, the process server must leave a copy of the claim form at the defendant's home or usual place of business.

It must be left in the presence of a competent member of the defendant's household who is 18 years or older, or with the person in charge of the defendant's place of business during normal office hours.

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The process server must tell the person who receives the papers what the papers are for. Copies also must be mailed by first class mail to the defendant at the place where the papers were left. Substituted service is considered to be completed on the tenth day after such mailing. Special time lines-If you intend to use substituted service, the hearing date must be set very far in advance.

That's because the delivery and mailing of the court papers must take place an extra 10 days before the hearing date. Special proof of service form-The person who serves the plaintiff's claim by substituted service must complete and sign a special form of proof of service entitled Proof of Mailing Substituted Service Form SCA. This completed form must be filed with the small claims court at least five days before the hearing. No matter which type of service you use, service must be completed within explicit time limits before the hearing.

If you don't serve the defendant within these explicit time limits, the defendant may ask the court for a postponement of the hearing and, in most cases, the hearing date will be changed.

In counting the days, don't count the day in which service was completed, but do count the date of the hearing. Remember too that a completed and signed Proof of Service Small Claims Form SC , showing that service of process was accomplished within these time limits, must be filed with the small claims court at least five days before the hearing date. For more information, ask the court clerk for a copy of What is "Proof of Service?

Like all court forms, you can also read and print this by visiting the Judicial Council's self-help Web site at www. You need the defendant's address for several reasons. You may want to contact the other party to attempt to settle the case before filing the action and also to communicate your pre-filing demand. Then, after you file your case, you'll need an address to give to the process server to serve your claim form on the defendant and to give to the court in order for it to serve further notices. If you win your case, you'll need an address where you can send a letter requesting payment.

Here are several important sources of information for finding out where the other party lives or works.


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The most obvious source of addresses, and one often overlooked, is the telephone directory. City directories are also excellent sources of information. For defendants living outside your area, try www. If the only information you have concerning the other party is a telephone number, and the number is one that is listed in the telephone directory, you may use reverse telephone directories in your public library or online.

In addition, directory assistance offers a reverse directory. The regulations of the U. Postal Service at 39 C. You can obtain this information if you need the new address in order to have service of process delivered on that person, and you submit a completed and signed Request for Change of Address or Boxholder Information Needed for Service of Legal Process.

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The request form can be obtained from your local post office or the U. Postal Service's Web site at www. As with change of address information, you can obtain that information if you need it for the service of process on the applicant for the Postal Service mailbox, and you submit a request form-the same form used for change of address information. The request form requires you to provide the Postal Service with certain information about the lawsuit, including the names of the parties, the court in which the case will be heard, the docket number of the case if already filed , and the capacity in which the Postal Service's customer will be served e.

If you are an individual person representing yourself, you need not answer question 5 which asks for the law that authorizes you to serve court papers. If a corporation is suing, the law that authorizes service must be stated. You must mail or deliver the completed request form to the correct post office never a post office franchisee accompanied by a self-addressed return envelope with postage fully prepaid.

No fee is required.

While the U. Postal Service reserves the right not to disclose the address of an individual for the protection of the individual's personal safety, you probably will receive the requested information in due course. Since the Postal Service retains forwarding address orders for only 18 months, the Postal Service may be unable to respond to a request for change of address information made after that time.

The request form that you will sign requires you to certify that the information that you request is needed and will be used solely for service of legal process in conjunction with an actual or prospective lawsuit. For that reason, it's essential that the information that you receive be used for that and no other purpose. A violation can result in substantial criminal penalties. The Secretary of State's website www. The Secretary of State also maintains a record of the names and addresses of the officers of corporations and their agents for service of process, any of whom can be served with the claim in a small claims action.

For instructions on how to obtain this information, call or recorded message. You can download instructions and an order form from the Secretary of State's website at www. For an extra charge, the Secretary of State will fax the requested information to you. It is possible the Secretary of State may not have the information for the corporation's agent for service because either the corporation did not list an agent or did not register with the Secretary of State.

If you are unable to find the agent for service of a corporation on the Secretary of State website, you would need to go to the Secretary of State's office and ask them to do a search for you. If the Secretary of State's office is unable to find the agent after the search, they will issue a certificate of non-filing. It is necessary that you file your complaint with that certificate of non-filing with the court. In addition, you must ask the court for permission to serve the corporation through the Secretary of State.

Law 101: How a Lawsuit Works

Please verify with the Secretary of State's office as to any fees charged for receiving the complaint. You should also verify with your local small claims advisors as to the required forms necessary to ask for court authorization to serve the Secretary of State. Also, corporations with a "forfeited" status are not considered to be registered with the Secretary of State for the purpose of small claims service.

However, corporations with a "suspended" status are considered to be registered with the Secretary of State for the purpose of small claims service. If the person you're seeking owns real property, you can search the tax rolls of the county assessor's office. The tax rolls list the names and addresses of property owners in the county by both the owner's name and the address of the property.

The county registrar or recorder maintains a listing of property owners by name and location of the property owned. The county clerk maintains a listing of fictitious business statements.