Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Because serving papers is an in-person profession, it is essential to establish policies to protect the people involved from both physical and legal consequences. As a business, you want to prevent your servers, clients, and defendants from getting sick while also reducing liability by conforming to social distancing guidelines.
A number of companies in our industry have adopted policies and procedures for “Safe Service of Process” so they can continue to operate during these times.
Having such policies in place would have been useful in a recent case in which an FBI agent was served subpoenas at his home during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the attorney, the process server “jeopardized the health and safety” of the agent by initiating person-to-person contact unnecessarily. Such actions challenged the social distancing orders put in place by the state of Virginia and therefore made the validity of the serve questionable.
Below, we’ve compiled a safety policy template that you can use for your process serving business. You can edit and reformat it based on your business’s unique needs. Keep in mind that this is not legal advice, but utilizing these policies is still a way you can serve responsibly and respectfully during this complicated time while mitigating resistance from recipients.
Once you have a policy, it is important to communicate it with your staff, potential clients, and their attorneys in order to encourage compliance and establish that your company is operating within social distancing guidelines. There are a couple of things you can do to spread the word.
1. Add your protocol to your website. How you format this depends on your website. Whether it’s in a pop-up or a call-out box, make it easy to find and clear to read. See some examples of companies that have displayed their COVID-specific protocol below.
2. Add your protocol to your affidavits. It is a good precaution to have your compliance with COVID-19 measures documented on your affidavit if for any reason you have the validity of your service challenged in court. An example of your statement could be, “Our staff and servers complied with company guidelines put in place, including usage of PPE and sanitization, to protect the health and safety of all individuals involved with the service.” If you have ServeManager, you can easily edit your affidavit.
You can save the change here when recording the attempt:
And it will appear on your affidavit as it does here:
3. Email your protocol. Send your protocol to your contacts so they can access and reference it at any time.
Remember that this is not legal advice but can help to keep your clients and servers safe, limit liability for your business, and keep your business operating within social distancing guidelines. Feel free to copy and paste for use on your site or marketing emails and edit based on your company’s needs.
Because our company recognizes the spread of COVID-19 as a threat to the safety and well-being of our staff, clients, and defendants, we have enacted the following policies and procedures in order to minimize the spread of the disease as much as it is within our power. We will continue to monitor local, state, and federal agencies for guidance on the best ways to stay safe and will update our policies accordingly.
The following policies outline the safety requirements of all office staff and visitors.
In an effort to minimize person-to-person contact in the office, only essential staff will be permitted to come in. All staff whose presence in the office is not required to do their job will work remotely. A staff member who is feeling sick and experiencing symptoms or has been in contact with someone feeling sick and experiencing symptoms is to stay home.
Those working in the office will:
All office visitors or servers in the field will:
When possible, we will mitigate our field process servers from entering the office by having them print documents to be served, following the above guidelines, or by providing a disinfected, secure space where the process server can retrieve the document packets.
Before being sent out for service, all documents must be properly sanitized in order to reduce risk to the recipient. All staff must ensure that they are masked and that their hands are clean or gloved before handling the documents. After the documents are printed, they must be sealed in plastic coverings and left for a minimum of 24 hours.
The following policies outline the safety requirements of all process servers in the field.
Prior to serving, process servers will assess their own health by taking their temperature and monitoring potential recent exposure. If a server is experiencing symptoms or feeling sick, they are not permitted to serve. Servers must also ensure that their cars, documents, and hands are properly sanitized.
Here are the steps a process server must follow when conducting a serve:
When it is an option, servers or our office staff will call the defendant ahead of time to make sure the recipient is comfortable with the procedure. Document recipients or defendants may also contact our office to discuss alternative ways for delivery that allows them to stay comfortable and safe.
If a recipient refuses to come to the door, the server must confirm identity through the door and obtain a visual confirmation through a window. Once identified, the server will leave the documents by the door and retreat.
Since these times are unprecedented and complicated, it is important to document what is being done differently in case someone challenges a serve later on. Therefore, our process servers will also carefully document their serves to avoid doubt about the validity of the serve if it is brought to court.
All office staff and process servers must agree to the following protocol. Those who do not agree cannot be utilized until social distancing guidelines are lifted.