Upcoming Change to Florida Service of Process Statute
In this blog, Matt Couch, Partner with Moorhead Law Group of Pensacola and Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, writes about an upcoming change to the Florida statutory provision governing service of process when other permissible options for service are unsuccessful. Couch’s practice areas include real estate and construction disputes, business litigation, and employment law. To learn more about him, his areas of practice, and his contact information, click here.
An upcoming change to the Florida statutory provision governing service of process on domestic and foreign corporations will permit service on the Secretary of State when other permissible options for service are unsuccessful. Section 48.031, Florida Statutes, directs the manner in which domestic and foreign corporations are served with legal process. The current version of the statute requires in-person service on various corporate officers or agents. The party attempting service must follow the hierarchy provided in the statute, beginning with the president or vice president, and ending with any corporate officer or general “business agent residing in the state.” See Fla. Stat. 48.081 § (1)(a)-(d)(2022). Alternatively, service may be completed by serving the corporation’s registered agent, or on an employee at the corporation’s principal place of business under certain circumstances. See Fla. Stat. § (3)(a) (2022).
Effective January 2, 2023, section 48.081 will be amended, allowing service of corporations via service of process on the office of Florida’s Secretary of State. See Ch. 2022-190, § 5, Fla. Laws. However, like the current version of the statute, there will be a hierarchy of agents and officers upon whom service must be attempted first before resorting to the Secretary of State. But the amendment begins with service on the corporation’s registered agent, and if unsuccessful, then on various corporate officers. See Id. Once those options are exhausted “after due diligence”, “the process may be served as provided in § 48.161 on the Secretary of State as agent of the domestic corporation or registered foreign corporation…” See Id.
This amendment will be a welcome change for litigants who struggle to perfect service of process on corporations associated with only a single individual, who serves as president and the registered agent, but actively avoids service.