QUESTION: Dear Legal Wiz,
I paid someone at the Courthouse downtown to serve a summons and he gave me the date to go to Court. I went to Court at Sutton Street, but my name was never called. The name of the person I was bringing to Court was never called either. I was there all day. When I went downstairs, the Clerk told me that the summons was never returned. I cannot see the gentleman again, even though I went to Courthouse a couple of times. Then things got worse when the Clerk told me I should have given the summons to a bailiff from the Bailiff office at the back. Can I get back my money? Do I need to start over?
Although your issue is not normal, it is not unusual. Firstly, you will not need to start filing all over, but you WILL need to get a new summons to serve on the person you wish to bring to Court. The summons in the Civil Court is like an invitation, and it must be properly served according to the standards of the Court or the case can even be thrown out.
To get a new summons, you need the receipt that was given out at the time the case was filed. If there is no receipt, because it got lost, the Clerk at times can assist you if you have the date the case was filed, and the name of the person who filed it, in addition to the name of the parties involved.
Contracting a Bailiff is the recommended route by the Court as they are accountable. Persons opt against a Bailiff because they usually take longer than anticipated to serve the summons.
You can however, as the Clerk should have explained serve the summons yourself. You also have the option to get a willing member of the public who knows the person to serve it. Police personnel are not permitted to serve summons for Civil Court matters, but they can accompany the person to ensure its done properly. Usually there is a fee for anyone to serve it, unless it is your friend and they waive the fees for you. Private persons charge more.
The date at he Court is not confirmed until the summons is returned, and deemed to have been served properly. One main requirement is the signature of the person who served it. There is a section, and again as the Clerk should have explained that must be filled in and witnessed by either a Justice of the Peace or Notary Public before the summons can be returned for the staff to confirm the date.
In the event the summons is not served, for legitimate reasons, the Clerk can further advise you.
It is in your best interest to monitor the process.
You can get your money returned if you can prove your case. You will have to start a case and you will need to know how to locate the person in order for the summons to be served. You said you met the person at the Courthouse – you probably should try reporting the matter to the front staffers.
All the best