Ignoring a Summons

In ancient times the service of a summons was considered a royal act that had serious consequences. It was a summons to come to the King’s Court and to respond to the demand of a loyal subject. In ancient Persia, failure to respond to the King’s summons meant a sentence of death.

Today the penalty for ignoring a summons is usually a default money judgment that must be subsequently enforced.

If you get served with any legal documents DO NOT ignore them.

Regardless if you don’t know anything about the person suing you or anything about the case or matter that it regards it is imperative that not only receive the documents but also follow the instructions laid out in them.

Most states allow serving small claims summons and complaints by mail.  A summons usually arrives via certified mail return receipt or another method that requires you to sign for it.

Do not try to avoid the summons by not accepting it.

Unclaimed certified mail is often not returned in a timely manner and can sometimes be after the scheduled court appearance date.  If you avoided picking up the certified mail, the court may hear the case without you, and a default judgment will be entered against you.

The courts can enforce that your judgement show up on your credit report, your bank accounts can be retrained or your wages garnished.  Even if you have managed to avoid being serviced and they can still not locate you after the judgement it will sit on the courts records for years and you will eventually be located and the judgement will be enforced upon you.

Service of process in cases filed in the United States district courts is governed by Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In England and Wales, the rules governing service of documents are contained with Part 6 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 [1].

If you know someone who is ignoring a summons I would suggest that you share this article with them.

Scott Frank has not only studied the history of legal process servers but is also up to date on the current laws of process serving.

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