Skip to main content

In Civil matters, is an unsigned proof of service invalid? If so, what court rule and/or CCP apply?

Bakersfield, CA |
Filed under: Lawsuits and disputes

The documents were served from the plaintiff attorney.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. It might. What documents are you referring to? Is it a discovery request? A discovery response? A motion? An opposition to a motion? An unsigned proof of service throws into question when a document was actually served, and may create an issue with regard to when a response is due or whether a motion or an opposition or a reply is timely.

    Frank W. Chen has been licensed to practice law in California since 1988. The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice for a particular case. This Avvo.com posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author. For specific advice about your particular situation, please consult with your own attorney.


  2. The proof of service is a record of the service, made after the fact, to prove the service was accomplished.

    What you are asking about is one of the procedural issues that makes some attorneys and legal secretaries crazy. Because the proof of service is to prove the document was served (that is, deposited in a mailbox, overnight delivery container, or personally delivered) it cannot be signed truthfully until the document is actually served. That means the proof of service has to be sent out without a signature because the proof of service gets sent with the document being served.

    Most law firms, including mine, include the blank proof of service to let the recipient know there is a proof of service, then after the document has been served, the person who served it signs a copy of the proof of service that is held in the office. If there is ever an issue, the attorney will have the signed proof of service to prove service was effected.

    Because this can be, well, sort of silly, some law firms sign the proof of service before serving and include a signed copy with the document being served. Other law firms are exceptionally attentive and, after the document is served, sign a proof of service and then send a copy of the signed proof of service separately.

    If you find this confusing, rest assured you are not alone. Those of us in the legal profession are used to it but it must be confusing, and even weird, to people who don't spend every day dealing with lots and lots of legal rules.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


  3. Ms. Spencer states the rule and reason your copy of a proof of service may not include a signature. However, if the document is one which is filed with the court you should be able to verify it was actually signed by viewing the court file.

    However, even if unsigned, that does not mean the service is invalid. Perhaps it was just an oversight which can easily be corrected with a signature. So long as you received timely notice it is unlikely you will be able to take advantage of an unsigned proof of service since you could not show prejudice.

    I am licensed in California only and my answers on Avvo assume California law. Answers provided by me are for general information only. They are not legal advice. Answers must not be relied upon. Legal advice must be based on the interplay between specific exact facts and the law. This forum does not allow for the discussion of that interplay. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if that interplay were explored during an attorney-client relationship. I provide legal advice during the course of an attorney-client relationship only. The exchange of information through this forum does not establish such a relationship. That relationship is established only by personal and direct consultation with me followed by the execution of a written attorney-client agreement signed by each of us. The communications on this website are not privileged or confidential and I assume no duty to anyone by my participation on Avvo or because I have answered or commented on a question. All legal proceedings involve deadlines and time limiting statutes. So that legal rights are not lost for failure to timely take appropriate action and because I do not provide legal advice in answer to any question, if you are an interested party you should promptly and personally consult with an attorney for legal advice. Also, see Avvo's terms and conditions of use, specifically item 9, incorporated by this reference