Ejectment: Notification of Defendant

6 Replies

I have a tax deed for a Jefferson County property and am considering ejectment.  When filing, one can choose to have the taxpayer notified via certified mail with return receipt.  

Must that return receipt be received by the sheriff in order for the case to go forward, or does their simply sending it mean the case can move forward?  What if the taxpayer no longer lives at the address they gave the county when they recorded/assessed their property, and they never get the certified mail?

As the plaintiff is asked to provide the court clerk the address for the taxpayer/defendant, the one the court uses to notify them, what are the plaintiff's responsibilities here?  How do we really know where the taxpayer lives?  What if we're wrong?

The actual lawsuit papers must be "served" on the defendant before the clock starts running on their time to answer.  You can select service by Sheriff's Deputy or Constable (depending on the county) or certified mail, or you can elect to have your own private process server.  County personnel is going to take a long time in Jefferson County. Certified mail never works because they never sign for the letters. A private process server will cost you around $50 and is worth EVERY penny.  Most of the local skip trace people also serve papers.  You can also ask at the Circuit Clerk's office. Tell them you don't want a recommendation, you just want the names of two of three people who are in there a lot picking up papers to serve as private process servers.

Whoever you hire, tell them you want the service of the papers video'd. Phone video is okay.  Often you get papers served, take a default judgment, and then the person pops up 45 to 60 days later and claims they were never served. Unless you have proof otherwise (besides just your process server's memory) the judge will often give the defendant the benefit of the doubt, set aside the default judgment, and set the case for trial.

@Cody Mina , I forgot to answer the part of your question about responsibilities. It is your responsibility to provide a good service address. If they cannot serve the papers, then it is up to you to come up with a better address and attempt service again.  If you cannot get service on them within 120 days (I think; ask at the courthouse what the deadline is, because I can't remember this with certainty) then your case will be dismissed and you will have to start all over again.

@Arnold Finkelstein , For out of state defendants you can ask that a local person (there) serve the papers. It's been a long time since I handled one of those, and I don't remember off the top of my head exactly what steps. There is probably a separate form for that. Ask at the courthouse.

@Denise Evans   Thank you.

To go back to Alabama, I know another investor in Jefferson County who has said he just uses whatever address the county has on file, he asks the defendant be notified by certified mail with return receipt, and that the case moves forward even if the receipt is never returned.  Perhaps he's mistaken.

@Arnold Finkelstein , a case CANNOT move forward until the lawsuit papers have been served. If they are sent out by certified mail, but the defendant does not sign for the certified letter, it has not been served. A court gains power (jurisdiction) over a defendant only when the lawsuit papers are served or there is a request for substitute service, such as by publication. The rules are very specific about when you can request service by publication. No, I can't describe them here for you, it would take too long. Google  the following words: Rule 4 Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure   and the first hit will probably get you to the exact rule.  

No court will set a case for trial (move forward) or allow a default judgment unless the defendant has been legally served. Your friend either failed to fully communicate all the details of what he was trying to tell you, or he was just puffing and making it sound like he never had any problems because he's such an expert.