When it becomes necessary to sue a debtor on a commercial debt, your lawyer will need to serve the defendant with a complaint and summon them to court. As it happens, the document demanding the defendant to appear before the judge is appropriately called a “summons”.
Your lawyer will deliver the complaint and summons to the sheriff who will then personally hand (or “serve”) the defendant with these documents. The process of serving a defendant with a complaint is called “service of process”, and if it is not done correctly, you cannot obtain a valid judgement against your debtor.
This means you and your lawyer need to know where the defendant is living or working. If the defendant is a company, then you will need to know where the company president or registered agent is living or working.
When I am given documents to review prior to preparing the complaint, one of the first orders of business is to figure out where the defendant is living or working. This is not always so easy.
One problem I have encountered is when the credit application given to me by my client shows the defendant’s address as a P.O. Box number. Remember, the sheriff has to serve documents on a person. The sheriff cannot leave documents in a box at the post office. It can create quite a problem locating the defendant if I only have a P.O. Box number to go on. It will cost time and money to locate the defendant personally.
For this reason, watch out for credit applicants who use P.O. Box numbers as their address. A better practice is to demand a physical address where the owner of the company actually resides. This way, if you need to sue to collect money that is owed, the sheriff will be able to locate the debtor for service of process.