You’ve Been Served! Really?

We’ve all seen movies where a clever process server tries to serve divorce papers to an unwilling recipient.“Fed Ex!” “Flower delivery!” Whatever costume it takes to hand papers to someone or drop them at their feet, right?

Well, how about this one? A process server is 12 feet away from you at a bar. From a distance, she tells you she has papers for you. You say, “No you don’t,” and you walk away until you’re out the door and driving home.

Incidentally, after you said, “No you don’t” and started walking away, even though you weren’t even looking at her, she tossed the documents in your general direction and said out loud, “You’ve been served.” Were you served?

Yes, according to the Second Appellate District

in the case of In re Ball, which contained essentially the same facts. What if you’re 20 feet away? What if you never acknowledge the process server? The answer is that it depends on the circumstances. The guidance we’ve been given by the Ball court is this:

 “We take it that when men are within easy speaking distance of each other and facts occur that would convince a reasonable man that personal service of a legal document is being attempted, service cannot be avoided by denying service and moving away without consent to take the document in hand.” In re Ball (1934) 2 Cal.App.2d 578.

Reasonable advice, but of course…

People can spend thousands arguing about whether certain actions constituted good service or not. I just had a case where an “avoider” was called on it by the court. Not only did the court decide that he had been served, but he was made to pay some of my client’s attorneys’ fees for having to defend against his allegation of non-service.

Alas, in law as in life, avoidance doesn’t pay off.