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Service of Document in the jurisdiction


Service of documents is a necessary part of court proceeding. It is the way by which a person (defendant) is informed of an action against him. If you file a claim or take other action against a person, he must know an action is brought against him.

The claimant’s lawyer will arrange to have the claim form served on the defendant. If there is more than one defendant, each must be served with a claim form.

The lawyer will engage a bailiff to serve the claim form. You will have to give the address of the defendant/defendants so that the defendant could be reached.

A statement of claim should be served with the claim form, although it could be served without the statement of claim. Other documents, such as an affidavit, or a copy of an order, could be served with the claim form, depending on the claim that is made.

The regular type of service is personal service, that is, the document must be handed to the defendant in person and he must be served within the jurisdiction. The person who serves must swear afterwards to an affidavit that he served the defendant. He must indicate in this affidavit the date and time of service, the place where it was served and how the defendant was identified. If someone identifies the defendant to the bailiff, that person may be required to swear to an affidavit.

A person other than the defendant could be served in special circumstances. For example, a legal practitioner could accept service on behalf of the defendant. The defendant, however, must notify the claimant in writing that his legal practitioner will accept service. There are some other requirements when serving a company, a firm, partnership, a body corporate, a minor or patient.

For example, a body corporate could be served by sending the claim form by prepaid post mail to the principal officer of the body corporate, or by serving the principal officer of the body corporate personally. The secretary, the treasurer or other officer could be served. For minors or patient, a parent or guardian could be served. If there are no parents or guardian, the person with whom the minor lives could be served.

You cannot keep the claim form after it is filed for an extended period. It must be served within six months of its filing. If you are serious about your claim you should make all attempts to serve an evasive defendant.

If you are the defendant, then you must accept the claim form when you are served. There is no running away from it. The bailiff can throw it at your feet if you refuse to take it.

If you decide to represent yourself, then you must observe the instructions given in the document served on you. You would need to acknowledge service by filling in the acknowledgment of service form and return it to the court office within the stated date. You are also required to fill in and file your defense 28 days after service of the claim form. If you want a lawyer to represent you, you must take the documents that were served upon you to a lawyer of your choice who would arrange for further service. But you must sign documents associated with the matter when the lawyer calls upon you to do so. You would have to provide information to your lawyer to prepare your defense in the matter.
To serve documents outside the jurisdiction requires the permission of the court.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: