Service of process refers to delivering court documents to the person being sued, his attorney, or the registered office of a business. There are very specific rules governing service of process both in The Bahamas and abroad because parties involved in a lawsuit must be given adequate notice of the lawsuit and of the proceedings taking place. Ineffective or incorrect service of process of the initial writ or originating summons is a serious obstacle to pursuing a lawsuit, because the defendant can claim that he did not have notice of the claim and that steps taken in the proceedings are therefore invalid. As a result, the plaintiff must make sure that service is properly carried out.
Serving Parties in The Bahamas
When serving a writ, originating summons, petition, or motion to begin a lawsuit, unless the court orders otherwise the defendant must be personally served with the originating document. This usually means hand delivery of the documents to the person themselves. The person serving the documents should not be a party to the action, and should indorse a copy of the served document with the date, time, place, and name of the person served and the name and address of the person who serves the document. Alternatively, if personal service on the defendant is not achieved, the defendant's attorney may accept service on the defendant's behalf or the defendant may enter an appearance, both of which have the effect of the defendant accepting service. (Rules of the Superior Court, O. 10, r. 1.) If the defendant is a business located overseas with a local agent, the court may authorize service on the local agent under certain circumstances. (O. 10, r. 2.)
Serving Parties Abroad
If the defendant has no agent who could accept service in The Bahamas, you may need to serve the defendant outside the country. Bahamian law anticipates this common occurrence and the court may authorize service on a defendant in another jurisdiction in certain circumstances. Some of these include where (1) the entire subject matter of the dispute involves land located in The Bahamas, (2) the dispute relates to an obligation affecting land in The Bahamas, (3) the defendant is domiciled or ordinarily resides in The Bahamas, (4) the contract in the dispute was made in The Bahamas, (5) the action relates to the administration of the estate of a person who was domiciled in The Bahamas, or (6) a tort was committed there. (See O. 11, r. 1.) Usually, you will need to seek leave of the court to serve the document outside the jurisdiction.
The Bahamas is a party to several international treaties and agreements governing service of process in different jurisdictions, such as the Hague Service Convention and the Inter-American Convention on Letters Rogatory. When serving documents in another jurisdiction, you should consult the applicable agreement to determine how to properly effectuate service in that jurisdiction. Each agreement has different countries as parties, so carefully check that you have chosen the correct rules for the correct jurisdiction.
To find out more, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.