Many people believe they can indefinitely delay a lawsuit against them by avoiding the process server who is trying to serve the complaint. They plan to live somewhere other than their primary residence, often in locations outside of Florida. Can you avoid a lawsuit by making it impossible for a process server to find you and deliver the complaint.
Hiding from the process server certainly frustrates any plaintiff trying to initiate a suit. However, there is a relatively unknown law that provides plaintiffs a procedure to legally serve people who hide from process service. The statute states that a defendant who is “a resident of the state and who subsequently becomes a nonresident of the state or conceals his or her whereabouts.” The statute provides for service of process by serving the Florida Secretary of State.
The statute applies to defendants who are doing business in the state. The concept of doing business is very broad and includes almost any type of active business or active investment conduct. There are detailed procedures by which a plaintiff may obtain service through the Secretary of State, and the procedures must be strictly followed or service or process will not be valid.
Defendants should know that there is a way to service people who either leave the state or conceal their location. There are also substantive and procedural defenses against this type of substituted service. Service through the Secretary of State is not frequently used, in large part because many plaintiff attorneys are unfamiliar with the statute. But, defendants should be aware that either running or hiding is not a reliable way to avoid a determined plaintiff.
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