Serving Documents

Last Reviewed: June, 2021 Reviewed by: JES Contributors

In a lawsuit, providing paperwork from one person to another is called serving documents. There are specific rules in place to make sure all parties receive all the documents in the lawsuit. Different types of documents have different rules of service.

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Serving Documents guide from the B.C. Government

Serving Documents factsheet from The Law Centre

Serving a Notice of Claim

The rules for serving a BC Small Claims Court Notice of Claim are different and more strict from the rules for other documents. This is because the court wants to be absolutely certain that all the parties are aware of the lawsuit. It would not be fair to make an order against someone who had no chance to defend themselves! 

You need to serve all the defendants named in the Notice of Claim with:

  1. The defendant’s copy of the Notice, and
  2. The blank Reply form

How you serve the Notice of Claim depends on the kind of defendant.

Serving a Notice of Claim

Defendant(s) Method

Individual (over 19 years old)

  • Personal service –either you or someone else personally handing a copy to the defendant, or
  • By registered mail

Incorporated business

  • By registered mail to the company’s registered office,
  • Leave it at the registered office
  • Take it to company’s place of business and give it to person in charge
  • Leave it with the director, officer, trustee in bankruptcy or a receiver manager of the company

Partnership

  • Leave it with receptionist or person in charge at the place of business
  • By registered mail to a partner
  • Personal service of a partner

Unincorporated business

  • Serve owner of business same as you would an individual

Individual under 19

  • Give it to their mother, father or guardian unless a judge orders otherwise

If you are leaving a copy with the defendant you must hand it to them. If they refuse to take it you can drop it at their feet. You can ask a friend to do this for you or hire a process server who is a professional document server to serve the defendant. To find a process server in your area you may need to do a web search. 

Learn More

Serving Documents guide from the B.C. Government

Serving Documents factsheet from The Law Centre

Lawsuits involving persons under 19 years of age from the Law Centre

Serving Other Documents

Once the Notice of Claim, Replies, and any Third Party Notices have been served, most (but not all!) documents can be served by ordinary mail (i.e. not registered mail) to the addresses the other parties provided on the above documents. 

If you send a document by ordinary mail, the Court will consider it served 14 days after it was mailed unless there is evidence to the contrary. Be sure you mail documents in time to meet any deadlines.

Proof of Service

Certain court documents in BC Small Claims Court require evidence that the other party was provided the document. This is called proof of service. The format of the proof of service provided will depend on how you served the other party. If you or someone else personally served (meaning you or someone else gave it to them in person), you can prove that you have served the document by filing a Certificate of Service. If you served them by registered mail you will need a proof of service by registered mail. In order to deliver a document through registered mail, Canada Post must obtain the signature of the person being served. To prove service by registered mail, you can get a copy of that signature or a confirmation of delivery from Canada Post.

If there are multiple defendants, a separate certificate of service must be filed for each defendant.

DIY Tools

For guidance take a look at our Sample Certificate of Service and Serving Documents Checklist

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Serving Documents from the Government of BC

What if I am having trouble serving the defendant?

Sometimes it is difficult to locate the other party in order to serve documents on them. This could be because they have moved or because they are purposely avoiding you. This is probably very frustrating but there is something you can do. You can apply to the registrar using Form 16 to allow you to serve the documents some other way, such as taping them to the defendant’s front door if you know where they live.

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