After reading this post I was reminded of a basic tenant in trial law. Know who you are going to sue.
A big mistake made by some pro se litigants is either serving the wrong party or serving the “right” entity but the wrong person.
For example, lets say you are going to sue BobJon, Inc. Their registered agent is Tim Bob whose office is at their plant in Marinette, Wisconsin. You hire a process server who takes an authenticated Summons and Complaint (make sure they serve an authenticated copy) to the plant and serves Scott Tim in processing.
Well, you served an employee at the plant right? The registered agent has an office at that plant according to records you found using Wisconsin’s CRIS website.
This service may not be enough to obtain jurisdiction against the defendant. Section 801.11 Wisconsin Statutes sets the standard for service of process.
The statutes say that if you can’t serve Tim Bob then you can serve someone “apparently in charge of the office.” Is Scott Tim in charge of the office? He’s in “processing.”
“Apparently in charge of the office” in sub. (5) (a) refers to what is apparent to the process server. When a receptionist referred the process server to her superior, who did not send the server to the proper office, the server could serve the superior, particularly since the superior had accepted service of process in other actions without objection by the company. Keske v. Square D Co. 58 Wis. 2d 307, 206 N.W.2d 189 (1973).
Catch my drift. This issue is often litigated because if the letter of the law is not met the defendant has a chance of escaping liability (if the statute of limitations has run) and dismissing the suit (and costing the plaintiff additional expenses and time).
Be weary of who you sue. Cross your T’s and dot your I’s before you send the Summons and Complaint out for service. And always use a reputable process server!
Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in West Allis, Sheboygan, Plymouth, and Germantown.
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