If I am suing a large national corporation in small claims court, on whom and at what location do I serve the papers?

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If I am suing a large national corporation in small claims court, on whom and at what location do I serve the papers?

The guideline pamphlet put out by the state says that a business may be sued in small claims yet sates that the case should be filed in the county of residence of the defendant. A business does not have a residence per se and this one does business in all counties. I need to know how to pick an individual to serve to papers on.

Asked on April 30, 2012 under General Practice, Washington

Answers:

Kenneth Berger / Kenneth A. Berger, Attorney at Law

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

I have seen different judges here in Washington handle this issue in different ways.  Some will let the case move forward as long as good service is made on the corporation, which in the case of a small claims case is usually by certified mail.  Others will not only require good service but will wait and see if the rep from the corporation shows up and if they do, they will ask them to waive any objection to jurisdiction.  Other judges will look to see if the corporation was doing business here in the area covered by the small claims court and may consider the jurisdiction as ok if they are. 

As to who you serve a small claim on, an officer of the corporation, or the registered agent, are the usual suspects.  Good Luck!

As always, my comments are only applicable to Washington State and are not a substitute for getting competent, local, and more comprehensive, legal help.

 

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A lawsuit can be filed where the plaintiff resides or where the defendant resides or where the claim arose.  You would name the corporation as the defendant in your lawsuit.  The lawsuit can be served at corporate headquarters.  If the corporation is doing business in your state, it should have an agent for service of process.  That agent for service of process can be served.  The Secretary of State's Office in your state should have the information on the agent for service of process in your state for the corporation.  If that information is not available, you can have the lawsuit served on a high-ranking official of the company such as the president, CEO, etc.


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