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So You Want to Sue A Business…What If They Have Disappeared?

There have been recent changes to the procedure for service of process in Arizona. How has it changed, and what can be done if you can’t find the business you need to sue?

If there was an ideal situation for suing a business, it would go down like this: the process server serves the lawsuit to the defendant’s registered agent, you see each other in court, and the rest is history. Sometimes, unfortunately, the process server is unable to find the business, because they have listed a bad registered agent.  Arizona has taken steps to avoid this problem.

Why do I need a registered agent? What do they do?

The situation mentioned above is precisely why each state requires registered agents for all registered businesses. The registered agent is the one who officially accepts documents on behalf of your business, and this includes service of process. The registered agent is required to have regular business hours and a physical street address in your state for this reason—so process servers can find you. You can act as your own registered agent, or statutory agent as it is called in Arizona, but you must be able to meet the requirements.

How Arizona has addressed this issue:

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) recently made changes to their procedure for accepting service of process. Now, to serve a business a lawsuit in Arizona, you must provide two copies of each document being served. You also need a written statement (you can use the ACC’s form or your own) certifying that to your knowledge there is no statutory agent appointed for the business you are trying to sue. Thus it’s impossible for you to serve them. Instead of the written statement, you can also provide a declaration or affidavit from a process server that shows that they attempted to serve the would-be defendant at their statutory agent’s address, but to no avail.

After this has been done, the ACC will mail the documents served to the business at their last known mailing address that’s on file with the state. The ACC will also prepare a Certificate of Mailing when the service of process is received. This shows that you’ve attempted to serve papers—it is required that a defendant has been legally notified that they are being sued. So even though your defendant can’t be found, the judge can proceed with ruling anyway because this proves you’ve tried to notify them.

 What happens outside of Arizona?

If you don’t reside within Arizona, there are still steps that can be taken if you can’t track down the registered agent of the business you need to file a lawsuit against. In many states there is an option to file a motion requesting publication of your intent to sue if you have tried and failed to serve their registered agent. This allows for a judge to proceed with ruling.

What is the point of suing a business if you can’t track them down in order to collect? You can still receive a default judgment for monetary reward that can be renewed every five years. That way if you can ever find the defendant in the future, you can collect your money. It’s not optimal, but gives you an option to keep your lawsuit active.

While every state requires that each registered business maintain a registered agent (or statutory agent in Arizona) in order to avoid situations like these, it is always possible that a business will slip through the cracks.


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