Service of process is the delivering of a summons and complaint to a defendant. It is a step that is required to compel, or “hale”, a defendant into court. After a defendant is properly served, if he or she (or it) fails to appear or file and serve an answer, the plaintiff can win by default. But if service of process is not done properly, the Court has no personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and any default judgment against the defendant is void.
Usually, a plaintiff has the Sheriff serve the defendant with process. Sometimes, a plaintiff might serve the defendant through certified mail, return receipt requested. But since 2001, the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure have also allowed service of process to be done using “designated delivery services” pursuant to an Internal Revenue Code statute.
There are, however, a few ins and outs to using this method, starting with making sure you only use a delivery service that is actually designated pursuant to the federal statute. To read more about service by designated delivery service, you should check out the recent posts by my wife, Inez de Ondarza Simmons, who is another North Carolina real estate litigation attorney:
UPDATE!: Inez now offers a Designated Delivery Service Outline that you can download for free and automatically! Just go to Serving a lawsuit with UPS or FedEx? and fill out the form!
P.S. You might also want to see Inez’s post on yesterday’s North Carolina Court of Appeals case on the presumption of proper service by FedEx, where the process package was addressed to the corporate defendant’s registered agent, but FedEx delivered it to the defendant’s receptionist.