Service of Process in New York: Must-Knows for Ensuring Success 

Dec 22, 2021 6 min read
Todd Harrison

Written by 

Todd Harrison
Professional Writer & Attorney. Todd is a licensed attorney who brings more than 10 years of legal marketing knowledge to write for ABC Legal. He is dedicated to making high-concept legal topics accessible to people from all walks of life.

New York service of process carries a particular set of demands. Whether you need to serve legal documents to a party in the five boroughs or someone who resides in a small town upstate, it’s important to know how to deliver effective service of process. Developing a basis for understanding the key rules surrounding effective service of process can help you avoid unnecessary case delays and prevent legal matters from being dismissed for bad service.

Service of Process: A Primer

If a plaintiff decides to sue another party, they must provide notice of the lawsuit and deliver all necessary legal documents. This notice allows the person being sued to understand what the claims are against them and what they must do if they choose to dispute those claims. “Process” is the term used to describe these legal documents, such as a summons or subpoena. “Service” is the term used to describe the delivery of these documents to the other party. People have a constitutional right to know that someone has filed a legal claim against them. The rules governing how, when, and by whom documents are delivered are often regulated at the state level. New York is no exception, with its own procedures and processes.

New York Service of Process: Methods of Delivery

New York service of process rules outline the methods of delivery for successfully serving legal documents to the parties named in a lawsuit. New York law uses a particular nomenclature regarding service of process, referring to the delivery of legal documents to an individual as “personal service.” The law then defines several methods of personal service (as opposed to service by mail). Below are the basic methods as outlined in respect to personal service upon a standard individual in the Consolidated Laws of New York:

Personal delivery: The gold standard for service of process, personal service is exactly as it sounds: The delivery is made in person to the named party to a lawsuit. Personal service is always the best way to ensure that service of process will hold up to any court challenges or allegations that the party never received the legal documents in question.

Substituted Service: Sometimes, personal delivery may not be possible. In these instances, New York law allows for legal documents to be left with another party. Specifically, the law states that documents may be left with “a person of suitable age and discretion” at the named party’s usual residence or actual place of business.

Leaving documents with another party requires additional steps. A process server must also mail a copy of the legal documents via first-class mail to the party’s usual address or place of business. If sent to a business, then the envelope must be marked as “personal and confidential” and give no outside indication that the contents are coming from an attorney or a law office.

In some instances, service may be made to a designated agent of the party who is named in the lawsuit, except in matters concerning family law.

Affixing the documents to a door (also known as “Nail and Mail”): If a process server has made all attempts at delivering service of process in some other way while practicing due diligence at every step, then the documents may be affixed to the door of a residence or business. This method is obviously less than ideal and should be used only in the rarest of circumstances. This two-step procedure requires that the documents be mailed to the person being served at their last known address within 20 days of the “nailing.”

A method devised by the court: New York service of process rules do allow for the courts to come up with a method for delivering effective service of process if all other methods prove to be impracticable. The party who is attempting to serve process must make a motion before the court before such a method will be taken under consideration.

Understanding what is being served and who is being served can affect the applicability of certain regulations in New York. For example, there are specific requirements and adjustments made for service of process involving landlord-tenant laws as well as for personal service upon infants, LLCs, corporations, and governments. Laws are subject to change, so it’s crucial to review and understand current law codes and best practices whenever dealing with legal matters.

New York Service of Process: Proof of Service

The law requires some type of proof that legal documents were actually delivered to the proper party, in other words, proof of service. This is typically accomplished by filing an affidavit with the court, although it’s important to note that each state, including New York, may have different standards for proof of service.

Understanding the Nuances of Civil Procedure in New York

The importance of working with only a qualified process server cannot be overstated. However, being qualified in one state does not mean being qualified in every state. Each state has different rules of civil procedure that govern how process can be served. As such, someone who has worked exclusively in Connecticut or New Jersey, for example, may not understand all the nuances of New York law. If mistakes are made during service of process, then a judge could throw the entire case out. It is important to work only with a process server who is qualified and knowledgeable in the necessary rules and regulations of the state where the party is being served.

Speed and effectiveness also can vary among process servers. When evaluating process servers, always choose those who incorporate technologies, such as address validation and GPS tagging, to ensure fast and successful service.

ABC Legal Helps Simplify Service of Process in New York

New York service of process requires a skilled hand and someone who knows what it takes to deliver effective service that will be hold up in court. Law firms and legal practitioners trust ABC Legal and its process server partners to get the job done right every time.

We employ cutting-edge technology to help simplify service of process and ensure that local laws are not just known, but followed during service of process. Our platform allows for real-time updates so that you know how your case is progressing every step of the way. We also make it easy for both lawyers and process servers to upload any additional documents they may need onto our platform to minimize likelihood of delay.

ABC Legal validates every service against your court’s rules and regulations, whether in New York, elsewhere within the 50 states, or within 77 countries internationally. To learn more, we invite you to start a conversation with us. Or, you can easily place an order today and get your legal documents where they need to go.

The information above does not constitute legal advice and is for general, informational use. Due to the changeability of laws, the information on this page may not reflect the most recent local laws. Always consult current legal and civil codes in your area for the most accurate information.

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Todd Harrison

Written by 

Todd Harrison
Professional Writer & Attorney. Todd is a licensed attorney who brings more than 10 years of legal marketing knowledge to write for ABC Legal. He is dedicated to making high-concept legal topics accessible to people from all walks of life.
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