Invalid Proof of Service in California

August 25, 2023

Looking for information on invalid proof of service in California? Process Servers play a crucial role in delivering legal documents in California. Every legal case needs a valid Proof of Service (POS). If this isn’t done correctly, it can disrupt legal proceedings.

This article will guide you through the reasons a Proof of Service might be considered invalid in California and what it means.

What is Invalid Proof of Service?

What is Invalid Proof of Service?

Invalid Proof of Service refers to when the documentation or method used to confirm that legal papers were served to a party in a lawsuit is incorrect, incomplete, or does not meet the required legal standards. In the context of California, if a Proof of Service is deemed invalid, it means that the court will not recognize that the documents have been properly served. This can lead to delays, the need for re-service, and potential complications in the legal proceedings.

The purpose of a Proof of Service is to declare that the opposing party was served correctly and that service rules were followed. It validates that proper notice was given to the person being served concerning the documents they are receiving on a pending legal matter they are involved in.

A POS is meant to contain information on who served the legal documents, the type of documents served, that the person being served was clearly identified and verified, and the documents were delivered in the right timeframe.

If any parts of the POS are found to be incorrect or the POS has been skipped altogether, this gives the opposing counsel the opportunity to contest the service of process on behalf of the person being served.

Common Reasons For An Invalid Proof of Service

Common Reasons For An Invalid Proof of Service

Some of the common reasons for an Invalid POS include:

Incorrectly served papers

When an inexperienced Process Server fails to serve a defendant properly. This can happen if the court papers are not served in the right timeframe such as in the legal serving hours or if certain service steps were not followed correctly.

Incomplete or inaccurate information on the Proof of Service form

This occurs when the legal documents have the incorrect details of the defendant such as the wrong legal name. The misspelling of a name is called a misdescription. All details need to be correct for the POS to be deemed valid and need to correspond with the exact names contained in the legal documents being served too. The date of when the service was carried out needs to be correct.

Service to an unauthorized person

This can be caused by mistaken identity where legal court papers are sent to the wrong address or the wrong person. This can seriously compromise a case for a plaintiff.

Failing to verify a delivery

When a defendant’s identity has not been properly cross-checked, legal documents can be served to the wrong party at the wrong address, similar to serving an unauthorized person. When a delivery is not verified, it becomes hard for the courts and judges to guarantee that documents were delivered to the intended person at the right time.

Inadequately preparing the Process Server

As the plaintiff, it is your responsibility to adequately prepare a Process Server on what to expect when it comes to the person being served. If you know the person might make it hard for the process server to track them down or might act in a combative or hostile manner, alert your process server to prepare them and to avoid problems such as delayed legal proceedings.

Essential Components of a Valid Proof of Service

Essential Components of a Valid Proof of Service

The Legal Requirements for A Valid Proof of Service

  1. A person must be 18 years or older to serve documents.
  2. The person who served the documents must complete the POS as evidence that the process of service was done properly.
  3. The POS should be typed or printed.
  4. A POS must contain the name, address, and contact details of the subject being served.
  5. A POS must contain the name of the country in which the legal action is filed and the court’s address.
  6. A POS must list each legal document that was served.
  7. A POS must contain the names of both the Plaintiff and Defendant. The same names must appear on the documents served and the POS.
  8. The POS must have the right method of service checked. If more than one method of service was used to serve a party, separate forms should be used to show each method used.
  9. The POS must contain the case number and be the same number printed on the legal documents served.
  10. The POS should state the judge’s name and the department assigned to the case.
  11. Complete, sign and date the Proof of service form and return it to the court clerk by a certain date.

Consequences of An Invalid Proof of Service

Consequences of An Invalid Proof of Service

When a POS is invalid it can lead to problems in the court proceedings and indicates that certain legal rules were not followed during the service of process. If a person has not been served properly, delays and case dismissals are inevitable.

If the Process Server served the wrong person, this can lead to a defendant contesting the courts and filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit or even restart the case. Any default judgment claim ruled in your favor as the plaintiff, will then be relinquished.

Preventing An Invalid Proof of Service

To prevent an invalid proof of service it is important to have a Process Server who understands the importance of proper service and the law of serving legal documents thoroughly and correctly. A Process Server must ensure that legal documents have been served to the right defendant in the legal serving hours according to California’s service law and by following all process of service rules.

All details of the defendant and plaintiff need to be correct and correspond with details in the legal documents served. The dates of service must be correct. Process Servers must verify the identity of the defendant to ensure that papers in are successfully handed over to the right person or competent member at the right address. Process Server’s must sign and date the POS and have it filed with a court clerk in a timely manner.

Different types of service include:

  1. Personal service – Where legal documents are personally handed to the defendant.
  2. Service by mail – Done by first class mail or certified mail with a return receipt. A copy of the legal documents is mailed to the person being served and the return receipt serves as a Proof of Service.
  3. Substituted service – Is used when the person being served cannot be located after multiple attempts to serve them. Documents are then left in the hands of a competent member of the household, or at their usual place of business with the person apparently in charge of the office.
  4. Service by publication – When a summons or complaint is published in the newspaper when the subject’s address or means of finding them is unsuccessful.

Different Types of Proof of Service

Different Types of Proof of Service

Different types of Proof of Service exist and will depend on the cause of action that is declared. The following Proof of Service forms can be served:

  • POS-010 Proof of Service Summons – For service of court summons.
  • POS-020 Proof of Personal Service Civil – For serving documents, other than summons, by personal service.
  • POS-030 Proof of Service by First Class Mail (Civil) – For documents other than summons, served by mail.
  • POS-040 Proof of Service Civil – For documents other than summons, by personal service, mail, overnight delivery, messenger service, fax, or e-mail.
  • SC-104 Proof of Service Small Claims – Used for serving small claims documents.
  • FL-115 Proof of Service Summons Family Law – Used for service of family law summons.
  • SUM-300 Declaration of Lost Summons After Service – Used when the original summons is lost before returning it to court with a POS.

Challenging a Proof of Service

A Proof of Service can easily be challenged if it is found that the service of process was not fulfilled accordingly. Lawsuits have consequently been dismissed because of this.

If the opposing counsel claims that legal documents were received incorrectly, this gives them the grounds to challenge a Proof of service and file an affidavit as it proves that the service was not done correctly. This is why it is key to employ the services of an experienced, registered Process Server who understands the importance of civil procedure and its rules to avoid improper service.

If the Process Server who rendered the service is able to successfully testify about the authenticity of the service in court, and that the defendant was indeed properly served, it can help to reject any claim the opposing party may bring up on the validity of service.

What Is The Quashing of Service

Sometimes, defendants are able to file a motion against a lawsuit on them. Quash service is one such motion and basically asks the court to state that a summons or complaint was not served properly. A motion to quash service happens when a court lacks jurisdiction over the defendant from an invalid service.

When the serving of a summons or a complaint is flawed, a court will ultimately lack jurisdiction over that defendant. Successfully winning a motion to quash service will mean that the plaintiff will have to serve the defendant again and the defendant will have thirty days to respond. A motion to quash must be filed in a timely manner.

Final Thoughts

Proof of Service is therefore crucial as it serves the purpose of assuring the courts that a defendant was given proper notice of a legal matter they are being served on and was served correctly. Ensuring that Process Servers know how to adequately fulfill the process of service will ensure seamless court proceedings.

An invalid Proof of Service can be detrimental to your case, resulting in either a dismissal or delay. An invalid Proof of Service gives the opposing counsel an advantage to challenge the Proof of Service and file a motion to quash, jeopardizing any prejudgment claim in favor of the defendant.

Are you looking to serve legal papers? Contact On-Call Legal today and ensure your papers are served affordably and at the highest level!

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I was not served properly in California?

You can file a motion to quash service and challenge the Proof of Service by stating that the service process was done incorrectly or at the wrong time. Contact a civil litigation attorney to help you understand your rights and challenge a service lawfully.

Does a Proof of Service have to be signed in California?

Yes. The Proof of Service needs to be signed, dated, and contain all details of how the service was conducted. Make a copy of the POS and hand the original copy to the court clerk who will stamp it and file it for you.

What is a declaration of due diligence Proof of Service in California?

This is a document that describes every single attempt made to serve legal papers in person to the individual being served. It is filled out as part of Substituted Service and includes dates, times of day, and the outcomes of attempts to serve the papers.

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