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I've reason to believe that someone might be planning to sue me (it's unclear). Last Sunday night I got a knock on my apartment door at around 9:30pm from a stranger who tried to talk me into opening it without saying who she was or why she was there. When I asked her who she was trying to see she mumbled something inaudible.

I live in a secure building, so this has me alarmed. Ordinarily I would assume this was a partygoer who had the wrong unit number, or an inept attempt at some kind of fraud or home invasion. But I've heard that process servers try to surprise people with documents out of the blue. Is it typical for California process servers to go straight to ambush before trying more prosaic methods like simply calling the target on the phone to set up a meeting or showing up at the front desk at their workplace?

If not, this is a safety issue I need to address with my building's security.

For clarity, I am not trying to dodge service, nor do I have a strong reason to believe someone is trying to sue me. The only reason I am considering this possibility is that there was an accident, and one of the parties in that accident has not given any indication of planning to sue, but also isn't returning calls.

So I am trying to learn whether it is typical for injury attorneys in California to ambush people with process before having given notice of planning to sue, and while actively dodging calls. If that is true, then this intrusion into my building is explicable and less worrisome. But if it is unusual for California attorneys to behave in this way, then it becomes more likely that this person was a stalker's accomplice.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's only tangentially about the law and is more a personal judgement issue or issue that needs to be discussed with a lawyer. – BlueDogRanch Nov 14 '18 at 0:02
  • @BlueDogRanch Is there another place I can ask before going through the process of finding and paying a lawyer? I'm really very anxious about strange people trying to gain entry to my home at night. The reason I asked here is because anyone practicing law in CA would be familiar with how process servers work here. – Crashworks Nov 14 '18 at 2:08
  • Google for free/low cost legal help in CA. But they will tell you to simply find out if someone is trying to serve you. You can run, but you can't hide forever. – BlueDogRanch Nov 14 '18 at 2:16
  • @BlueDogRanch To clarify, I’m not trying to dodge being served, but to work out who the person that tried to con their way into my home is. “Process server” was one of the possibilities I needed to rule out; and while an ordinary lawyer in any other state would simply have someone meet me at my office, I didn’t know if CA accident lawyers would begin with shenanigans before a phone call, and one of the parties in my accident isn’t returning calls so no one has any idea if they’re filing or not. Anyway thanks for your reply. – Crashworks Nov 14 '18 at 9:47
  • I think that this is a legitimate question for this forum and while the context is specific, the question itself is quite general. It is also quintessentially legal, not tangentially about the law. – ohwilleke Nov 16 '18 at 3:48
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Is it typical for California process servers to go straight to ambush before trying more prosaic methods like simply calling the target on the phone to set up a meeting or showing up at the front desk at their workplace?

Process servers (everywhere) almost never call the target on the phone to set up a meeting. This is because process is only successfully served (subject to certain exceptions) if it is hand delivered to the "target". A phone call will frequently cause someone to evade service of process.

while an ordinary lawyer in any other state would simply have someone meet me at my office,

You are mistaken. This would be quite unusual in any state.

If not, this is a safety issue I need to address with my building's security.

A process server is not a threat to your safety in any way. If you suspect that someone is trying to serve you with process, the right thing to do is to allow them to contact you and deliver the papers to you, rather than evading them. If you know the law firm that is trying to sue you, you can contact them and arrange to accept service of process and waive the requirement that a process server hand deliver the papers. A process server will not harm you in any way. They will simply hand you paperwork.

Ultimately, a process server will successfully serve you (either because the job is given to a sheriff's deputy or because a court authorizes substituted service, for example, on your doorman or by email). The harder it is for them to serve you, the more expensive it will be for that to get done and ultimately the costs will be passed on to you.

Also, if you are present and the process server tries to hand deliver papers to you and you refuse to touch or accept the papers, you have still been legally served with process and judgment by default will enter against you if you do not respond by the deadline stated in the summons.

  • The thing is I do not know that the law firm is trying to sue me; they have given no notice of planning to sue. But they are also not returning my advocate's calls, at all. I am trying to determine whether it is more likely that: a) an unscrupulous injury attorney is trying to ambush me out of the blue, b) someone was trying to rob apartments in my building, or c) a stalker has employed a catspaw. – Crashworks Nov 19 '18 at 23:06
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    There is nothing unscrupulous about a personal injury attorney serving process without notice. Is there any reason that you would have a stalker? That isn't something that usually happens at random. – ohwilleke Nov 20 '18 at 15:41
  • Yes, I have reason to worry about stalking. I won't go into the details in a public forum. My insurance company tells me it's typical for people to notify them before going to suit, or at least to reply to settlement offers. So to me it seems odd for an injury attorney to ignore all settlement offers and go straight to ambushing people in their homes at night. But I don't know if that's how CA injury attorneys work; all my prior lawsuit experiences have been over prosaic business stuff where it comes after a period of negotiation. – Crashworks Nov 20 '18 at 18:59
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Most of the time we do not make contact with people before serving them. If they are evading service, we have just lost the element of surprise if we make contact first. Secure buildings by law are supposed to allow process servers access for a reasonable amount of time to serve papers.

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