Rule 4.1 - Process: Methods of Service, Ohio Civ.R. 4.1 (2024)

Rule 4.1 - Process: Methods of Service

All methods of service within this state, except service by publication as provided in Civ.R. 4.4(A), are described in this rule. Methods of out-of-state service and for service in a foreign country are described in Civ.R. 4.3 and 4.5. Provisions for waiver of service are described in Civ.R. 4.7.

(A)Service by clerk
(1)Methods of service
(a)Service by United States certified or express mail Evidenced by return receipt signed by any person, service of any process shall be by United States certified or express mail unless otherwise permitted by these rules. The clerk shall deliver a copy of the process and complaint or other document to be served to the United States Postal Service for mailing at the address set forth in the caption or at the address set forth in written instructions furnished to the clerk as certified or express mail return receipt requested, with instructions to the delivering postal employee to show to whom delivered, date of delivery, and address where delivered.
(b)Service by commercial carrier service Unless the serving party furnishes written instructions to the clerk that service be made pursuant to Civ.R. 4.1(A)(1)(a), the clerk may make service of any process by a commercial carrier service utilizing any form of delivery requiring a signed receipt. The clerk shall deliver a copy of the process and complaint or other document to be served to a commercial carrier service for delivery at the address set forth in the caption or at the address set forth in written instructions furnished to the clerk, with instructions to the carrier to return a signed receipt showing to whom delivered, date of delivery, and address where delivered.
(2)Docket entries; return The clerk shall forthwith enter on the appearance docket the fact of delivery to the United States Postal Service for mailing or the fact of delivery to a specified commercial carrier service for delivery, and make a similar entry when the return receipt is received. If the return shows failure of delivery, the clerk shall forthwith notify the attorney of record or, if there is no attorney of record, the party at whose instance process was issued and enter the fact and method of notification on the appearance docket. The clerk shall file the return receipt or returned envelope in the records of the action.
(3)Costs All postage and commercial carrier service fees shall be charged to costs. If the parties to be served are numerous and the clerk determines there is insufficient security for costs, the clerk may require the party requesting service to advance an amount estimated by the clerk to be sufficient to pay the costs of delivery.
(B)Personal service When the plaintiff files a written request with the clerk for personal service, service of process shall be made by that method.
(1)Civil process server; general. When process issued from the Supreme Court, a court of appeals, a court of common pleas, or a county court is to be served personally under this division, the clerk of the court shall deliver the process and sufficient copies of the process and complaint, or other document to be served, to the sheriff of the county in which the party to be served resides or may be found. When process issues from the municipal court, delivery shall be to the bailiff of the court for service on all defendants who reside or may be found within the county or counties in which that court has territorial jurisdiction and to the sheriff of any other county in this state for service upon a defendant who resides in or may be found in that other county. In the alternative, process issuing from any of these courts may be delivered by the clerk to a person designated by court order to serve civil process under division (E) of this rule.
(2)Civil process server; procedure
(a) The person serving process shall locate the person to be served and shall tender a copy of the process and accompanying documents to the person to be served. When the copy of the process has been served, the person serving process shall endorse that fact on the process and return it to the clerk, who shall make the appropriate entry on the appearance docket.
(b) When the person serving process is unable to serve a copy of the process within twenty-eight days, the person shall endorse that fact and the reasons therefor on the process and return the process and copies to the clerk who shall make the appropriate entry on the appearance docket. In the event of failure of service, the clerk shall follow the notification procedure set forth in division (A)(2) of this rule. Failure to make service within the twenty-eight-day period and failure to make proof of service do not affect the validity of the service.
(C) Residence service When the plaintiff files a written request with the clerk for residence service, service of process shall be made by that method.
(1)Civil process server; general. When process is to be served under this division, deliver the process and sufficient copies of the process and complaint, or other document to be served, to the sheriff of the county in which the party to be served resides or may be found. When process issues from the municipal court, delivery shall be to the bailiff of the court for service on all defendants who reside or may be found within the county or counties in which that court has territorial jurisdiction and to the sheriff of any other county in this state for service upon a defendant who resides in or may be found in that county. In the alternative, process may be delivered by the clerk to a person designated by court order to serve civil process under division (E) of this rule.
(2)Civil process server; procedure
(a) The person serving process shall effect service by leaving a copy of the process and the complaint, or other document to be served, at the usual place of residence of the person to be served with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein. When the copy of the process has been served, the person serving process shall endorse that fact on the process and return it to the clerk, who shall make the appropriate entry on the appearance docket.
(b) When the person serving process is unable to serve a copy of the process within twenty-eight days, the person shall endorse that fact and the reasons therefor on the process, and return the process and copies to the clerk, who shall make the appropriate entry on the appearance docket. In the event of failure of service, the clerk shall follow the notification procedure set forth in division (A)(2) of this rule. Failure to make service within the twenty-eight-day period and failure to make proof of service do not affect the validity of service.
(D)Civil process server; applicant requirements To qualify as a civil process server for personal or residence service under divisions (B) or (C) of this rule, an applicant shall certify the applicant satisfies each of the following requirements:
(1) Not less than eighteen years of age;
(2) Not a party to the proceeding, related to a party to the proceeding, or having a financial interest in the outcome of the proceeding;
(3) A United States citizen or a legal resident of the United States;
(4) Hold a valid government-issued identification card, passport, or driver's license;
(5) Not convicted in the last ten years of any felony, offense of violence, or offense involving dishonesty or false statement, and not currently under community control sanctions, probation, post-release control, or parole;
(6) Not currently a respondent under any civil protection order;
(7) Familiar with the required procedure for service of process;
(8) Will conduct themself in a professional manner.
(E)Order for process server. Upon application and certification by an applicant under oath or affirmation that the applicant satisfies the requirements of division (D) of this rule, the court may designate that person by court order to make personal or residence service of process under divisions (B) or (C) of this rule for a period up to one year. The order shall provide that if the appointed person fails to satisfy the requirements set forth under division (D) of this rule during the period of appointment, the authority to serve process under the order shall cease. Continued appointment beyond one year shall require reapplication as set forth in this rule.

Ohio. Civ.R. 4.1

Effective:7/1/1970; amended effective 7/1/1971;7/1/1980;7/1/1997;7/1/2012;7/1/2016; amended effective 7/1/2020; amended effective 7/1/2023.

Staff Note (July 1, 1997 Amendment)

Rule 4.1 Process: methods of service

Prior to the 1997 amendment, service of process under this rule was permitted only by certified mail. It appears that service of process by express mail, i.e. as that sort of mail is delivered by the United States Postal Service, can always be obtained return receipt requested, and thus could accomplish the purpose of notification as well as certified mail. The amendment provides for this additional option for service.

Other amendments to this rule are nonsubstantive grammatical or stylistic changes, including lettering of the divisions (A-C) in place of the previous numbering (1-3).

Staff Note (July 1, 2012 Amendment)

Rule 4.1(A) is subdivided and amended to permit the clerk to make service of process using a commercial carrier service to make delivery by any method requiring a signed receipt. A "signed receipt" includes the return and filing of an electronic image of the signature. The amendment also removes the "by mail" limitation to the clerk's method of notifying plaintiff or plaintiff's attorney of a failure of delivery.

Divisions (B) and (C) are amended to make clear that the methods of service of process permitted to be made by a person designated by the court are limited to personal service and residence service.

Rule 4.1(C), which describes residence service, is also amended to track and incorporate where applicable the language of Civ.R. 4.1(B) which describes personal service, clarifying which portions of the two methods are the same and which portions are different.

Staff Note (July 1, 2016 Amendment)

Division 4.1(A)(1)(b) of this rule was adopted in 2012 to provide the clerk with an option to make service of process by a commercial carrier service as an alternative to service by United States certified or express mail. Under certain circ*mstances, the serving party may prefer that service be made by U.S. mail. Therefore, the provisions of Civ.R. 4.1(A)(1)(b) are amended to permit the serving party to furnish written instructions to the clerk that service be made by United States certified or express mail pursuant to Civ.R. 4.1(A)(1)(a), in which case the commercial carrier option is not available to the clerk for the initial attempt to make service of process.

Staff Note (July 1, 2020 Amendment)

Civ.R. 4.1 is amended to include a reference to the specific provisions for waiver of service of summons provided for in Civ.R. 4.7.

Staff Note (July 1, 2023 Amendment)

Civ.R. 4.1(C) adds minimum guidelines for the appointment of a special process server to promote uniformity and public safety across the state. For appointment orders in place on the effective date of this amendment, courts shall ensure that the appointed server satisfies the new criteria for appointment before or upon the renewal of that order.

Rule 4.1 - Process: Methods of Service, Ohio Civ.R. 4.1 (2024)

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