Tuesday, March 23, 2010

We serve dead people......?

We had a serve come in from out of state. The process server went to the house and found out that the named defendant, per his wife, died last September. We verified the information both with the SS Death Index and the local newspaper obituary before notifying the attorney via email that his subject had passed away.

Today, he calls our office sputtering that we've put him between a rock and a hard place, and we should have just served the paper to the wife. Mom told him that standard industry practice was to provide a non-service affidavit if someone was confirmed to be deceased. He said "I don't know how YOUR state does it, but we would serve it anyway unless we verified the death". Then he asked how we verified it, and we told him through the Social Security Death Index AND the obituary. He then complained that he didn't authorize us to "conduct an investigation" into those resources.

Mom reminded him that we HAD verified the death and we don't serve "dead people" unless the client specifically instructs us to do so in writing, in which case the affidavit would contain such wording. "Do you want to send us instructions and have us go back and leave a copy with the widow?", she asked?

"No...no...it's too late", he said, "Now that I know he's dead!". He continued by saying that it was "...the defendant's responsibility to send me (the attorney) a certified copy of his death certificate, and until he does that he was presumed to still be alive". (Yes...that's what he said!)

All's well now. Mom told him not to worry...we'd check for probate, and send him an affidavit providing him with all the necessary information. He was still muttering as we were hanging up..."You're right...you're right. I know it...but .....". Mom called his paralegal out of concern for the man's mental well-being and she laughed, saying she'd have a talk with him.

This has got to be one of the most ridiculous conversations we've ever had with a member of the Bar (who wasn't IN a bar!). And several states are talking about implementing laws governing process servers? Geez......! And who is keeping an eye on the attorneys and the legislators??

Respawctfully submitted by your reporter on the ground...

Mary-Margaret O'Brien

No comments: