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When can a waiver of service be used by law firms?

When Can A Waiver Of Service Be Used By Law Firms
Discover how a waiver of service can expedite civil lawsuits, promote cooperation, and streamline complex cases and learn about when they can be used.

Navigating the legal process can be a time-consuming and costly affair for both plaintiffs and defendants. In some cases, however, a waiver of service is available to expedite civil lawsuits and streamline cases. By voluntarily waiving formal service of process, both parties can save valuable time and resources.

In this article, we will look at the waiver of service and its application within California. We’ll explore how they simplify uncontested cases and offer significant cost and time savings for all involved parties.

Additionally, we’ll shed light on the specific provisions laid out in the California Code of Civil Procedure Section 415.30, which governs the use of waivers of service and ensures adherence to legal requirements.

Whether you are a legal professional seeking to improve case management or a litigant interested in a more efficient resolution, understanding the benefits and guidelines of waiver of service in California can prove invaluable.

What is a waiver of service?

A waiver of service is a legal document that can be used in civil lawsuits to save time and costs related to formal service of process. It allows the defendant to voluntarily waive their right to be formally served with the lawsuit papers (such as a summons and complaint) by a process server. Instead, the defendant acknowledges receipt of the lawsuit and agrees to waive formal service.

Law firms can use a waiver of service in various situations, including:

Uncontested cases

A waiver of service can be a useful tool for law firms to expedite the legal process and save time and costs. An uncontested case is one in which the defendant does not plan to dispute the claims made against them, and they are willing to accept the outcome or reach a settlement without contesting the lawsuit.

Here’s how a waiver of service can be used in uncontested cases:

  • Drafting the waiver: The plaintiff’s attorney or law firm prepares a waiver of service document, which typically includes a statement that informs the defendant about the lawsuit, their right to be formally served, and the option to waive formal service voluntarily.
  • Sending the waiver: The waiver of service is sent to the defendant, along with the complaint or petition that outlines the claims being made against them. The defendant has the option to sign the waiver voluntarily.
  • Time frame: Jurisdictions may have specific rules regarding the time frame within which the defendant must respond to the waiver. If the defendant does not respond within the allotted time or declines to sign the waiver, formal service will be necessary.
  • Acknowledgment and filing: If the defendant agrees to waive service, they sign the waiver document to acknowledge receipt of the lawsuit. The signed waiver is then filed with the court by the plaintiff’s attorney, which serves as evidence that the defendant has been notified of the lawsuit.
  • Proceeding with the case: Once the waiver of service is filed, the legal proceedings can continue as if the defendant had been formally served. The defendant may choose to respond to the complaint, admit or deny the allegations, and participate in the legal process as required.

It’s important to note that while a waiver of service can be a time-saving option, it should not be used in cases where there is any doubt about the defendant’s willingness to cooperate or the validity of the claims.

If there is any possibility of the defendant contesting the case, formal service should be pursued to ensure that the defendant is properly notified of the lawsuit and given an opportunity to respond.

Cooperation

A waiver of service can be a reflection of cooperation and goodwill between the parties involved in a legal dispute.

In certain situations, the defendant may be open to working with the plaintiff and may not want to engage in a confrontational process of being formally served with a lawsuit.

By voluntarily waiving service, the defendant acknowledges receipt of the legal documents and demonstrates a willingness to participate in the legal proceedings without the need for formal service.

Here are some scenarios where a waiver of service can be a sign of cooperation and goodwill:

  • Amicable resolutions: When the parties involved have a history of amicable relations or wish to maintain a positive working relationship, the defendant might choose to waive service as a gesture of cooperation. This can signal a desire to resolve the matter in a friendly and efficient manner.
  • Parties represented by attorneys: In many cases, the parties have legal representation, and the defendant’s attorney may advise their client to waive service if they believe the lawsuit has merit and formal service would only incur unnecessary costs and delays.
  • Acknowledging the claim’s validity: By waiving service, the defendant may implicitly acknowledge that they are aware of the lawsuit’s claims and do not intend to challenge the plaintiff’s allegations. This can streamline the legal process and move the case forward more quickly.
  • Easing court proceedings: In cases where the court docket is already busy, parties may choose to use a waiver of service to expedite the case and alleviate some burden on the court system.

Simplifying complex cases

A waiver of service can be used to simplify complex cases in certain circumstances, making the legal process more efficient and streamlined. In complex cases, the issues involved are often intricate and may require extensive legal analysis and discovery.

By waiving service, the defendant can indicate their willingness to cooperate and potentially expedite the resolution of the case. Here’s how a waiver of service can contribute to simplifying complex cases:

  • Focused legal proceedings: In complex cases, the primary focus should be on the legal issues and the merits of the claims rather than on procedural matters like formal service. By waiving service, the defendant acknowledges the lawsuit promptly, enabling the parties to concentrate on the substantive legal issues from an earlier stage.
  • Time and cost savings: Complex cases can involve lengthy litigation processes, which may be costly for both parties. By waiving service, the defendant can save time and money associated with formal service, allowing resources to be directed toward the legal arguments and evidence instead.
  • Early case management: In some jurisdictions, the court may set initial case management deadlines that require the defendant’s response to the lawsuit. By waiving service, the defendant can provide their response more quickly, which can help the court establish a timeline for the subsequent stages of the case.
  • Collaborative approach: Waiving service can be seen as a cooperative gesture by the defendant, demonstrating a willingness to work with the plaintiff and the court to resolve the complexities of the case more efficiently.

However, it’s essential to recognize that a waiver of service might not always be suitable for every complex case.

The decision to waive service should be made voluntarily and with careful consideration, as some complex cases may involve multiple parties or require formal service to ensure proper notification.

What benefits are there to using a waiver of service?

A waiver of service offers significant cost and time savings in the legal process, benefiting both parties involved.

By eliminating process server fees, the defendant voluntarily accepts the lawsuit papers, saving on associated costs. It also speeds up case initiation, as the defendant acknowledges receipt promptly.

Furthermore, quicker response times are achieved when the defendant signs the waiver, admitting or denying the allegations.

This expedites case resolution by avoiding delays caused by formal service. Waiving service also prevents complications associated with serving difficult-to-locate defendants or those in different jurisdictions.

Additionally, it eases court docket management by streamlining cases. However, it should be used judiciously, fitting best with uncontested cases or cooperative defendants.

Rule 4 (d) concerning the waiver of service in the Federal Rules for Civil Procedure

Here is the precise wording for the appropriate rule (Rule 4 of the Federal Rules for Civil Procedure):

(d) Waiving Service.

  • (1) Requesting a Waiver. An individual, corporation, or association that is subject to service under Rule 4(e)(f), or (h) has a duty to avoid unnecessary expenses of serving the summons. The plaintiff may notify such a defendant that an action has been commenced and request that the defendant waive service of a summons. The notice and request must:
    • (A) be in writing and be addressed:
      • (i) to the individual defendant; or
      • (ii) for a defendant subject to service under Rule 4(h), to an officer, a managing or general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process;
    • (B) name the court where the complaint was filed;
    • (C) be accompanied by a copy of the complaint, 2 copies of the waiver form appended to this Rule 4, and a prepaid means for returning the form;
    • (D) inform the defendant, using the form appended to this Rule 4, of the consequences of waiving and not waiving service;
    • (E) state the date when the request is sent;
    • (F) give the defendant a reasonable time of at least 30 days after the request was sent—or at least 60 days if sent to the defendant outside any judicial district of the United States—to return the waiver; and
    • (G) be sent by first-class mail or other reliable means.

(2) Failure to Waive. If a defendant located within the United States fails, without good cause, to sign and return a waiver requested by a plaintiff located within the United States, the court must impose on the defendant:

  • (A) the expenses later incurred in making service; and
  • (B) the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, of any motion required to collect those service expenses.

(3) Time to Answer After a Waiver. A defendant who, before being served with process, timely returns a waiver need not serve an answer to the complaint until 60 days after the request was sent—or until 90 days after it was sent to the defendant outside any judicial district of the United States.

(4) Results of Filing a Waiver. When the plaintiff files a waiver, proof of service is not required and these rules apply as if a summons and complaint had been served at the time of filing the waiver.

(5) Jurisdiction and Venue Not Waived. Waiving service of a summons does not waive any objection to personal jurisdiction or to venue.

You can find the full set of rules here and navigate to Rule 4 about summons if you wish.

Conclusion

It’s important to note that the specific rules and procedures for using a waiver of service may vary by jurisdiction, so it’s essential for law firms to ensure they follow the correct legal requirements for their particular case.

In addition, the defendant must voluntarily agree to waive service; it cannot be forced upon them. If the defendant refuses to sign the waiver or does not respond within the required time frame, formal service will typically be necessary to move the case forward.

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