In order for a court to have power or authority over you in a lawsuit, and to make a decision that could affect your property or legal rights, the court must first have personal jurisdiction over you. Personal jurisdiction is obtained initially by service of process which means that a summons is delivered to you. There are several methods permitted for service of process upon individuals and businesses. For the plaintiff, the best approach is always personally delivering a summons to the individual or an authorized officer or manager of the company. However, other methods of delivery are also considered personal service. The summons may be served by substituted service upon an individual in the household who is over 18 years of age with a follow-up mailing. If, after due diligence and attempts to serve personally, the process server is unable to do so, the summons may also be served by leaving a copy at the door and mailing a follow-up copy. Lawyers refer to this as “mail and mail.” Others refer to it as “sewer service” because it is almost the same in some cases as if the process server through the summons down the sewer. Mail and mail servers often results in litigation over whether the summons was actually served and received by the defendant. It can often result in the filing of an order to show cause by a defendant later in the case to vacate a default judgment if the defendant failed to respond to the summons. In those cases, where the defendant claims there was a lack of notice, the court may schedule a hearing to determine whether service was proper called a traverse hearing.Corporations may also be served through the Secretary of State, known as the Department of State, in the state where they are incorporated. When a corporation is created, most states would require it to designate the Secretary of State as an agent for service of process.

The other element of personal jurisdiction is that there must be sufficient minimum contacts to the State in order for you to be seen in that State.This means that you must have engaged in some conduct or activity in the state that would have reasonably lead you to believe that you might be subject to litigation in that state. An out-of-state defendant can be sued inside New York if he transacted business or committed a tort in the State. This is known as long arm jurisdiction. There is often litigation simply about whether a court has jurisdiction or not before the parties ever even begin to litigate the merits of the claims or defenses.

If you need legal help with serving a summons or responding to one, or with litigating the question of jurisdiction, contact us online or call Scott Lanin, Esq. at (212) 764-7250 Ext.201. We offer a free phone consult to review and evaluate your case or you can schedule an office consult.