Dishonesty of any type is not tolerated in the legal community. By adhering to the following principles, you will protect yourself from civil and legal liabilities.
Report Service Events Exactly as They Happened
It is the responsibility of the process server to ensure they are creating honest and accurate proofs. Proofs are always signed under penalty of perjury - this means that, in the eye of the law, you are taking an oath to tell the truth with every signature. Your submissions in ABC Mobile become proofs of service, which are filed in the courts. You are free to edit the wording of any submission, so please create a full, accurate story.
Dishonesty is Not Worth the Risks
Being dishonest in reporting service events is the number one threat to our business. A single act of dishonesty can (and has) cost individual process servers to be sanctioned by the courts in excess of $1,000.00. Some dishonest process servers have been personally named in consumer protection lawsuits.
Ultimately, being dishonest always catches up to the process server. We have a team dedicated to investigating reports of dishonesty and, if it is discovered that you submitted incorrect information on a proof of service, your contract will be cut.
The greatest asset you have in the field is your voice. Communication is the most important skill to develop as a process server. Clear and direct communication is key in this line of work. Be sure you are asking as many questions as necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of the situation. Most issues with serving process can be avoided with good communication skills, and it is important that you work hard in that regard.
The following situation is a commonly-made mistake:
You knock and a male answers the door. You say you are looking for Jeff Mann. The male says, "Yes, how can I help you?" You say you have legal documents to serve him, hand him the papers, and leave.
You report that the documents were personally served with identification confirmed verbally. Eventually a Proof of Service is filed, stating as much. However, it turns out that the person served was not the defendant.
In this situation, not enough was done to protect yourself from liability. You must properly identify the person you are speaking with. Ask direct questions and report exactly what transpires. Do not make assumptions, and do not take liberties with the service details. You may now be liable because the service was misrepresented.
Instead, try the following:
You knock and a male answers the door. You say you are looking for Jeff Mann. The male says, "Yes, how can I help you?" You ask, "So you are Jeff Mann?" The male clarifies, "No, I am his father. What can I do for you?"
At this point, you might ask to speak to Jeff Mann directly or - in the case that substitute service is allowable - hand the documents to Jeff Mann's father.
What to Do If You Are Not Sure:
There may be situations where an individual is unwilling to come forth with information. Perhaps after you ask, "So you are Jeff Mann?," the male responds with, "I ain't telling you nothin. Get off my property." Since communication was halted by this individual before you were able to definitively determine whether it was appropriate to serve documents, you must hold on to the papers. Your submission in your app might look like the following:
"I arrived at 31 Spooner St. where a Caucasian male wearing glasses, weighing 250-300 lbs., approx. 40-45 years old and 5’10”-6’0” answered the door. I asked for Jeff Mann and the person who answered the door refused to identify himself or provide any further information."
This is an accurate description of the events, and you cannot be held liable in court for reporting the truth.
Take notes after each service. As extra protection for yourself, take notes so that you have a record of all the details. You are unlikely to remember every completed service in the long term. Notes can be taken either on cover sheets or in a personal journal.