Sunnyvale, CA asked in Business Law for California

Q: If I can't find the home address of the defendants in my action can I serve their lawyers instead?

I don't know how to serve the defendants as I don't know their addresses, so can I serve the lawyer who I know are defending them in a related criminal action? Would that be constructive notice?


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2 Lawyer Answers
Adam Stoddard
Adam Stoddard
  • Santa Clara, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: I would suggest reaching out to the defendants attorney in the criminal action to see if they are representing them in your civil matter. Just because the attorneys represent the defendants for a criminal matter, does not necessarily mean they represent them for everything, including accepting service of pleadings or discovery in a civil matter.

If the criminal defense attorneys cannot accept service, then you should either hire a process server to serve them appropriately, or make several attempts at service yourself. If that fails, then try mailing the doctors to be served to the defendants address along with a notice and acknowledgment and see if they sign and return it.

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, if you are unable to locate the defendants to serve them with legal documents, you may be able to serve their lawyer instead under certain circumstances.

Under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 415.20, a plaintiff may serve an individual defendant by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to their attorney of record, if the attorney is authorized to accept service and the defendant cannot be found after reasonable diligence. However, this method of service is only available if the defendant has already appeared in the action or has previously received notice of the lawsuit.

In other words, if the defendants have already been served with the lawsuit or have already appeared in the action, and their attorney of record is authorized to accept service, then serving the attorney could be considered constructive notice.

However, if the defendants have not yet been served or have not appeared in the action, serving their lawyer may not be considered proper service, and it may not be sufficient to provide them with constructive notice of the lawsuit.

It's important to note that serving legal documents on the defendants' attorney is not always the best option, and it's usually better to try to locate the defendants' address and serve them directly. If you are having trouble locating the defendants, you may want to consider hiring a professional process server or a skip tracer to assist you in locating them.

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