The law says that when you sue a person, partnership, corporation, or the government, you must give formal notice to the other side that you have started the legal process. In the same way, when you are already involved in a case and file papers with the court, you are required to give the other side notice of the paperwork you have filed. The legal way to give formal notice is to have the other side “served” with a copy of the paperwork that you have filed with the court. This is called “service of process.”
"Service of process" means that the other side must get copies of any paper you file with the court. In “service of process” a third person (NOT you) is the one who actually delivers the paperwork to the other side. The person who does this is called the “server” or “process server.”
There are several ways to serve papers. "Personal service" means that someone – NOT a party to the case – must personally delivery the court documents to the other side. “Personal service” is the most reliable type of service because the court knows for sure that the person being served got the papers and, if necessary, can question the process server about the “service.” Since it is the most reliable, “personal service” is valid in all types of case. Also because it is so reliable, it is generally required when serving the first papers (the petition or complaint) in a case.
You may also serve someone by mail. For “service by mail”: the server mails the papers to the party being served. If the party being served is a person, the papers can be mailed to his or her home or mailing address. If it is a business, the papers must be mailed to the owner(s) at the business’s main office. If the business has an agent for service, the papers should be mailed to the agent for service. The server then fills out a Proof of Service, detailing to whom the papers were mailed, to what address, when, how (e.g., by first-class mail), and where they were mailed from. The server signs the Proof of Service and returns it to you to file in court. Service by mail is complete 5 days after the papers are mailed.
If you are suing a partnership under its business name, serve 1 of the partners. If you are suing a business AND its partners, serve each partner. If you are suing a limited partnership, serve the general partner, general manager, or the agent for service (if there is one).
If you are suing a corporation, serve an officer of the corporation or the agent for service. You can find out the name of the corporation's agent for service at the website of the California Secretary of State.
If you are suing your landlord, serve the owner of the building where you live. Your landlord’s name, address, and phone number should be on your lease or posted on two (2) conspicuous places on the property. You can also get the address from your local tax assessor's office. If you are suing your landlord and the manager of your apartment building will not tell you where the landlord lives, you can serve the manager.
Remember, even in "service by mail," someone – NOT a party to the case – must mail the documents to the other party, e.g. friend, family member, or professional process server. Best always to send everything certified mail/return receipt requested.
Normally, the clerk of the small claims court serves the plaintiff's claim and order to the defendant, and can do so by mail. (See Code Civ. Proc., § 116.330.) None of those methods of service prohibit service by mail at UPS store as a mailing address.
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