Many years ago I was training a new process server in the field. to serve papers. He was a young man from Vermont new to New York. I knew his father and uncle so when he he asked me for a job, I hired him. His father and uncle were from Ireland and that should have been a fair warning as to the young man getting wrapped up in the NYC night life. Yes, he liked to party a little bit!
Anyway, his first training session with me was scheduled on a Saturday morning. This was the only time I could go out during the day to serve papers as I had to be in the office during the week. The young man had already gone out with other servers but I like to see how they were coming along myself. If anything, it gives me some one on one time with new people.
So here I am on Saturday morning waiting for him. I paged, yes paged, him over and over again as he was really late. We were to meet at 7:30 am to go out serving and we had plenty of papers to serve. I paged his uncle who called and said he didn’t know where he was but if he hears from him he would call.
Finally, he shows up all apologetic and off we go to Queens to serve papers all day. We get to our first service and we are serving a subpoena at a residence in a building with no doorman but a buzzer system. I watched as he buzzes the apartment and someone answers. The tenant asks who it is and the young process server gives his name and stated he has a delivery for him. Over the intercom the man stated he doesn’t know him so he refuses to let him in for the delivery. By the way, for a server he was not very confident. We went back to my car to discuss what had happened. We discussed the situation and decided to try it again. I was parked in front of the building and decided to let him go solo so he wouldn’t be nervous with me standing next to him.
His second attempt didn’t work either when we decided to tell the recepient the delivery included a check attached. I could’t hear everything but the service still wasn’t going very well. He buzzed again and I pulled him off the service as he was down to yelling into intercom, “Just open the Door!!” I told him he should have buzzed all the apartments and someone would let him up but he just yelled into the intercom.
So off we go, someone will have to come back that has a little more knowledge about serving papers in NYC. The next few services went well and he was getting more and more comfortable serving papers. I think the cup of coffee I bought at the local bodega helped him clear the fog between his ears.
He had served about seven or eight papers and next stop was serving two people, husband and wife, at their house. He opened the gate heading to the front door when three huge dogs came around the corner barking and growling. I mean big dogs with that low, long bark and low long growl. The young process server jumped back, started to run back toward the street when two things happened. He was protected from the dogs by some flimsy chicken wire and the wife came to the front door and calmed down the dogs but our young process server was still freaking out a bit.
Our young server was convinced by the women of the house, that everything was fine and the service was effectuated. Person and substituted service, perfect. When he was, not quite running to my car, his eyes were still the size of silver dollars and before he he entered the car he excitedly said, “Did you see that! The big (expletive) dogs almost killed me. I replied laughing, “I sure did.”
He couldn’t figure out why I was laughing. I went on to explain two things to him. One, it was funny from where I was sitting but more importantly that the lawsuit was about a pizza delivery guy bitten by the dogs. “Really?,” he said.
I went on to explain that you should always read the gist of the paperwork. I explained to him that we have to always know the gist of the paperwork we are serving and that if he had read just a little bit of the summons and complaint he would have discovered the fact that he may want to watch for dogs. Lesson learned.
This memory always makes me laugh until I read the recent news article about a 36 year old women killed while serving papers in Texas. It was believed she was killed by a pack of dogs on the property. This really gets me angry and breaks my heart at the same time. I kept looking at the picture of her and wondered what was going through her mind during the attack. Did she cry for help? Did she almost get away? Where were the neighbors? How long did the attack last. I kept looking at her picture over and over wondering if she even stood a chance. Well, she didn’t. She is now dead! Serving a civil paper for some attorney somewhere who probably doesn’t know and maybe doesn’t want to know!
Yes, that last sentence is a harsh statement but more often than not, a true statement. I personally have had numerous close calls over the years form guns, knives, cars and once a seven iron, I think, could have been a six iron. The people I work with have also had numerous stories as well. Now here is the thing, the most, and I mean most I have ever gotten from my clients was something like this, “Really, was it served?” End of discussion. I do like to think that they had more thought than “really”!
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. Violence seldom happens serving papers if you follow certain guidelines. Be polite, professional and above all don’t hang around after it is served. But yes, violence does happen when serving papers. Just recently, I had a female upstate serving a paper on a guy who decided to show her he was a tough guy. She served him the papers and started to walk to her car when he, in his truck, raced in front of her, brushing her and then cut her off from leaving him property.
She ran down a ditch, moving away from her car, to a neighbors house for cover and help. He was close behind. The neighbor did come out and told the guy to knock it off and went back inside leaving my female process server alone with him. The tough guy then went right up to her face and yelled, if she were a man she would get hit. The female process server was understandably upset. First, assaulted by him in his truck and then possibly getting struck by him.
She went back to her car with the person served close behind doing his best to intimidate her. Trying to get her to take the papers back. As if she needed more intimidation. She entered her car and pulled down the road (yes she was in the country), and dialed 911. A 911 operator answered the phone and the server described what had happened and wanted to report it. Guess what the 911 operator said to her, Oh you mean, and stated his abbreviated name, he knew him personally. (Damn small towns).
The server hung up and then called me, still in tears. After discussing it with her, she decided to call the sheriff and report the incident. A half hour later a deputy sheriff shows up. Talks to the server about what happened and went back to his squad car. He sat in his squad car, according the the server, for quite a while talking back and forth on the radio.
This is the end result of a man, in my opinion, assaulting a female process server. There was nothing the sheriff could do as he did not witness the assault. The server argued that the neighbor was a witness and he should speak to him. He said he would but still there wasn’t a lot he could do. The server insisted on filing a report so there was a compromise. The women beater has to leave the process server alone for one year. If he does anything within the year time frame, she is to call and report it after the fact. them know. Then something can be done. Really! I come from the old school that a man never , and I mean never assaults a female. I can only assume the the Broome Count Sheriff has a different view. Or maybe it was because she was a process server and the sheriff was trying to mess with his competition.
What happened when I saw her on Monday morning. All she wanted was, “Not let that bastard win!” buy getting to her. What a trooper. Then she told me the story and all she wanted was how she could have avoided it? We discussed it moment by moment and we all came to the conclusion that there was nothing she could of done. He was just a contemptible person, proving to himself he was a tough guy.
We discussed if we should inform the client. The process server said no, it wouldn’t accomplish anything. By the way, the lawsuit was for a measly $1200.00.
So, what conclusion can I get from this. The young lady in Texas really cuts deep. Was it an accident? Maybe, but for me it really doesn’t feel like an accident. This incident isn’t the same as a car accident, it just feels different. Maybe it is my primal fear of getting eaten alive. Who knows. My heart goes out to the Texas woman’s family and friends. Because of this incident, I will from this day forward, remember my day with the young Irishman a little differently.
Process servers should not be killed serving papers. Go ahead, yell at us, flip us off, tell your bar buddies how you out maneuvered us or tell the wife you ran us off. But stop physically assaulting us.
One more thing, stop lying about being served!
You attorneys, it is fine you don’t have time for process servers or the fact we get assaulted from time to time serving your papers. But do me a favor, if you suspect that a service may turn violent, let us know. We can make the proper arrangements sending the right server to serve the papers for you and get your precious $1200.00 for your client.
There is a bill in New York that we are waiting to see if it passes that protects process servers from being assaulted. I looked at it and it is the same bill that makes it illegal to physically harm an older person. Specifically 10 years older. Who knew! But I’m not going to hold my breath. Yes, it may be on the books but will it help stop assaulting process servers. Probably not!
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