Florida Small Claims Court Service of Process can be effective in different ways. The Florida Small Claims Rules 2020 provides that service of process can me made by hiring a process server and/or by Certified Mail. If you retain an Orlando small claims attorney or an Osceola small claims attorney, your lawyer will hire a process server for you or attempt to serve the defendant by Certified Mail. If you are in the Central Florida area (Tavares, Kissimmee, Brooksville, Orlando, Sanford, etc.) we welcome you to call us for a referral for your small claims case. This article is for reference only. We are not accepting new civil litigation claims at this time.
According to the Florida Small Claims Rules 2020 (updated in some interesting ways), Florida Small Claims Court Service of Process (Small Claims Rule 7.070) can be made by Certified Mail provided that there is a return receipt filed with the court that demonstrates the defendant(s) signed, or that someone in their household authorized to accept the documents has signed. Specifically, Rule 7.070 states: “Service of process on Florida residents only may also be effected by Certified Mail, return receipt signed by the defendant, or someone authorized to receive mail at the residence or principal place of business of the defendant.” Read carefully. Only Florida residents may be served this way. In cases where the defendant is a business, there is some question as to whether actual service of process is required, but that is an arguable issue of fact and law.
The Florida Small Claims Rules 2020 make it clear that when Florida Small Claims Court Service of Process is done by Certified Mail service, it is generally not valid when the defendant is an out-of-state defendant. Remember, that you may at any time hire a process server to effect service on a defendant. Certified Mail service in small claims court in Florida is often less expensive and easier to do. Of course, the defendant or someone reasonably able to accept the pleadings on their behalf must sign for it, and you must file proof of their acceptance with the court for it to be effective.
Be careful plaintiff. If you are scheduled for pretrial mediation in Florida small claims court, and you are pro se (self-represented), you may encounter problems with Florida Small Claims Court Service of Process because some clerks of court do not know the Florida Small Claims Rules 2020. Sometimes the clerks will try to cancel mediation claiming the defendant has not been properly served because they only know about service of process by standard means. You may wish to bring to court a copy of Florida Small Claims Rule 7.070 to alert the clerk as to your right to serve the defendant by Certified Mail under the circumstances. Pay careful attention to the Rules and make sure you have complied with them fully. Your case could be delayed or otherwise, for a failure to abide by the Rules.
Attorney Jonathan Jacobs is a civil litigation lawyer in Orlando and an Orlando small claims attorney that has worked with many clients in small claims court. This article is for reference only. We are not accepting new civil litigation claims at this time.