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Process Service Blog

A blog about private service of process and other service of process issues written by Middle Tennessee- Nashville private process server Brad Holton of Holton Services.  Call (615)499-6522 to set up service.

Process Service for Tennessee Residents, civil procedure rules for Nashville Davidson and surrounding counties.

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Rule 4.04: Service Upon Defendants within the State.

(1) Upon an individual other than an unmarried infant or an incompetent person, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the individual personally, or if he or she evades or attempts to evade service, by leaving copies thereof at the individual's dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, whose name shall appear on the proof of service, or by delivering the copies to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service on behalf of the individual served.

(2) Upon an unmarried infant or an incompetent person, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the person's residence guardian or conservator if there is one known to the plaintiff; or if no guardian or conservator is known, by delivering the copies to the individual's parent having custody within this state; or if no such parent is within this state, then by delivering the copies to the person within this state having control of the individual. If none of the persons defined and enumerated above exist, the court shall appoint a practicing attorney as guardian ad litem to whom the copies shall be delivered. If any of the persons directed by this paragraph to be served is a plaintiff, then the person who is not a plaintiff who stands next in the order named above shall be served. In addition to the service provided in this paragraph, service shall also be made on an unmarried infant who is fourteen (14) years of age or more, and who is not otherwise incompetent.

(3) Upon a partnership or unincorporated association (including a limited liability company) which is named defendant under a common name, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to a partner or managing agent of the partnership or to an officer or managing agent of the association, or to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service on behalf of the partnership or association.

(4) Upon a domestic corporation, or a foreign corporation doing business in this state, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer or managing agent thereof, or to the chief agent in the county wherein the action is brought, or by delivering the copies to any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service on behalf of the corporation.

(5) Upon a nonresident individual who transacts business through an office or agency in this state, or a resident individual who transacts business through an office or agency in a county other than the county in which the resident individual resides, in any action growing out of or connected with the business of that office or agency, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the person in charge of the office or agency.

(6) Upon the state of Tennessee or any agency thereof, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the attorney general of the state or to any assistant attorney general.

(7) Upon a county, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the chief executive officer of the county, or if absent from the county, to the county attorney if there is one designated; if not, by delivering the copies to the county court clerk.

(8) Upon a municipality, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to the chief executive officer thereof, or to the city attorney.

(9) Upon any other governmental or any quasi-government entity, by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to any officer or managing agent thereof.

(10) Service by mail of a summons and complaint upon a defendant may be made by the plaintiff, the plaintiff's attorney or by any person authorized by statute. After the complaint is filed, the clerk shall, upon request, furnish the original summons, a certified copy thereof and a copy of the filed complaint to the plaintiff, the plaintiff's attorney or other authorized person for service by mail. Such person shall send, postage prepaid, a certified copy of the summons and a copy of the complaint by registered return receipt or certified return receipt mail to the defendant. If the defendant to be served is an individual or entity covered by subparagraph (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), (7), (8), or (9) of this rule, the return receipt mail shall be addressed to an individual specified in the applicable subparagraph. The original summons shall be used for return of service of process pursuant to Rule 4.03(2). Service by mail shall not be the basis for the entry of a judgment by default unless the record contains a return receipt showing personal acceptance by the defendant or by persons designated by Rule 4.04 or statute. If service by mail is unsuccessful, it may be tried again or other methods authorized by these rules or by statute may be used.

(11) When service of a summons, process, or notice is provided for or permitted by registered or certified mail under the laws of Tennessee and the addressee or the addressee’s agent refuses to accept delivery and it is so stated in the return receipt of the United States Postal Service, the written return receipt if returned and filed in the action shall be deemed an actual and valid service of the summons, process, or notice. Service by mail is complete upon mailing. 

[Added by order filed February 1, 1995, effective July 1, 1995; by order effective July 1, 1997; by order effective July 1, 1998; and by order filed December 10, 2003; effective July 1, 2004; and by order filed December 29, 2015, effective July 1, 2016.]

Advisory Commission Comments [2016].

4.04(1): Rule 4.04(1) provides that a defendant who evades or attempts to evade service of the summons and complaint may be served "by leaving copies thereof at the individual's dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, whose name shall appear on the proof of service[.]" The address shown on the individual's drivers license, handgun-carry permit, utility bill, or other similar document may be used to prove that a particular location is the "individual's dwelling house or usual place of abode[.]"

4.04(11): The former last sentence of subdivision (11) ("For purposes of this paragraph, the United States Postal Service notation that a properly addressed registered or certified letter is "unclaimed," or other similar notation, is sufficient evidence of the defendant's refusal to accept delivery") is deleted because the Postal Service's notation that a registered or certified letter is "unclaimed" is not sufficient, by itself, to prove that service was "refused."


NOTE: For the Advisory Commission Comments, please refer to Rule 4.09.

Process Server note: always check the actual Tennessee codes and never rely on something you see on a website.

Does a defendant have a right to refuse service of process in Tennessee tendered by hand in person?

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Sometimes a process server will make a positive ID on a defendant through an open window or glass door and then have the experience of said person (or anyone else inside the dwelling) refusing to answer the door so that we can effectuate valid court stamped service of process. So the question is does a defendant in Tennessee have a right to refuse service or process. The answer unequivocally by our attorney General of the State of Tennessee is No. Read the opinion here.…/attorn…/documents/ops/2001/op01-148.pdf "There is no right to refuse service of process. “The avoidance of authorized service o f proper process by a wilful act or refusal to act on the part of the defendant would create an intolerable e situation and should not be permitted.” A person cannot prevent a court from obtaining jurisdiction by refusing service of process that is tendered by hand. Where a defendant is in close proximity to a process server under suc h circumstances that a reasonable person would be convinced that personal service of a summons is being attempted, the service is complete even though the defendant refuses physically to accept the summons . Nielsen v. Braland , 264 Minn. 481, 119 N.W.2d 737 (1963). In Nielsen, the court noted that the summons had been left in a place easily accessible to the person being served . Under the circumstances, his refusal to pick it up or to accept it did not prevent service from being completed. "

New address for the TN AG for process service

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If you need process service  served on the Tennessee attorney general subpoenas for state employees and summons relating to persons employed by the state in their professional capacity the old address of John Sevier Building 37243-0705, 500 Charlotte Ave, Nashville, TN 37219 is no longer valid. The new address is more a bear to park and access with all the tourists but the huge statue makes it worth it. Holton services can run your paper same day if needed. Lets us know what your time frame is and we will get rolling.


Music Row update!

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Process serving subpoenas and summons from this location is more efficient than we dreamed it would be. Once you get on Broadway you are adding 10 minutes to any trip you take and its just not worth being based out of downtown anymore. Fear not though Nashville does have ample meters for parking you just have to know when which ones are open as they are all used at some point but open for hours otherwise. We are excited to bring you the long overdue pics of the current setup for serving process in Nashville Davidson Franklin Hermitage Madison Brentwood and beyond. Thanks for supporting us and we look forward to continuing to support you!

Process service Skip tracing and address investigation for civil process in Nashville Tennessee and also Murfreesboro Clarksville Joelton Tennnessee

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Greetings back with a quick tip relevant to serving process to addresses identified through the Davidson County Property lookup site. The residential address lookout website for Davidson County Tennessee is a fickle beast and requires specific "parts" of the address so that means normally you give it the street name then comb through all the house numbers on that street. In our tests it usually cannot handle if you type in the number and street name even on an easy one word street and thats assuming you leave off the street designation entirely to begin with. Another issue we have seen deals with the cities haste to develop and misidentified lots. Check out this screenshot from the property website clearing showing a different "mailing address" than the physical one right down the number on the house itself in the picture. If you view the deed here you can see the admitted error however its important for your bottom dollar to make sure that we are sent to the correct address.


Music row address incoming

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10 years ago all of Nashville's tourism downtown was located on Broadway/Printers Alley now the entertainment district downtown easily fills 4 city blocks.  While its great for the city as a whole, the slow moving trolleys, bar/.tour buses, ever increasing parking garage rates, crowds, bachelorette party's, and constant road closures for construction have made the 2nd Ave area unwelcome to all but the most"at your desk all day" professions. The dreaded "silver fox," a hard nosed strict parking police enforcer, is back on the beat again now as its getting warmer and another year of his "no convenience for you" enforcement of the inane parking laws on 2nd Ave has us very excited and proud to announce. Holton Services is moving this week to the NEW hip part of town for business not related to tourism MUSIC ROW! Nestled on 16th Ave South our new office has ample parking, quick on off the interstate, and will not add 10 minutes and dollars onto every trip to make to drop off process service court paperwork with us.

Deposition Subpoena for Davidson County residents - a better way?

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We do a good bit of business from out of state clients who in many cases to secure a subpoena for the deposition of an extraterritorial nonparty must first look to the rules of the jurisdiction where the case is pending, from there turn to the procedural rules of the state where the nonparty is based, further you must confirm that there are no additional requirements imposed by local rules in the nonparty’s county of residence. (anyone out of breath yet) 

Recently with subpoena's for depositions in Davidson I am noticing that people are asking about how they can get a local "official" to sign off on their subpoena for someone in Davidson county. While I am not a lawyer I am seeing that all the "big law" clients are issuing subpoenas for discovery, deposition, production of documents and medical records from the Davidson county court itself on behalf of a faraway place. If what you need is info it is in many cases "better" to use the rules of service for Tennessee than some places "Texas" "Louisiana" are both really strict on methods to affect successful service. From the TN code *Disclaimer I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice --- I make no claim to the following being valid please check official sources

2010 Tennessee Code
Title 24 - Evidence And Witnesses
Chapter 9 - Depositions
Part 2 - Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act
24-9-203 - Issuance of subpoena.

24-9-203. Issuance of subpoena.


(a)  A party may submit a foreign subpoena to a clerk of court in the county in which discovery is sought to be conducted in this state. The request for and issuance of a subpoena in this state under this part shall not constitute making an appearance in the courts of this state.

(b)  When a party submits a foreign subpoena to a clerk of court in this state, the clerk, in accordance with the rules of court, shall promptly issue a subpoena for service upon the person to which the foreign subpoena is directed. The subpoena shall incorporate the terms used in the foreign subpoena and contain or be accompanied by the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all counsel of record in the proceeding to which the subpoena relates and of any party not represented by counsel.


[Acts 2008, ch. 908, § 1.]  


What this means for your attempt to compel someone (especially a savvy holding company etc) to produce documents or testimony is that Tennessee will ask in its own way for you!

Holton services offers a low rate to pick up a foreign court subpoena and file it with the clerk once we have served and filled out the return of service here is a link to the docs

and here is a link to the instructions for requesting a foreign court subpoena

Who wants to wait 3 months for service of process returns? The Defendant......

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If you were to ask your clients if they mind paying an avg of $20 more in order to have the option to knock a possible 3 months off the time their case will take to complete what do you think they would say? Even the process serving companies who "contract" give time frames that sometimes stretch into the months. I was talking to one such process server "contractor" company with no experience in the Nashville area today who while trying to haggle the lowest charge was moving into the months for executing subpoenas before I hung up shaking my head. At Holton Services we don't believe in delaying the legal process for months just to save a couple dollars off each stop we make. We wont hire contractors who passed an interview with responses like "how hard can it be" as they have no want to grasp of how hard successful process service really can be.

Universitys/Hospitals/defendants who moved whom do I serve and how do I find them?

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Process service for a summons on an institution especially some of the larger ones can be very daunting for the UN-experienced. Vanderbilt and Tennessee State University come to mind immediately in both the vastness of the campus difficulty in finding whom you need to for successful service. Holton services has served multiple departments, facility, and students themselves of these and other multi campus organizations throughout the middle Tennessee area. Has the business or person you need moved and now your service was returned? Let Holton Services employ its extensive search characteristics to locate a business or a home address. Be wary of these cheap "background check" reporting sites that offer you quick info for a "dollar or two" The ability to cross reference several different sources that the normal consumer just is not allowed access to really is the difference on these many of my cases for my clients. Once I have your paper in hand Holton Services will talk to relatives, neighbors, past business partners, employers, friends and anyone else that might give us a lead to getting process service in Nashville complete if we need to.

Successful process service is truly a relative term

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One of the most important things to keep in mind when serving process for an out of state client is that you often need to follow the prescribed rules and meet the expectations set forth by that state and even county even though you are serving someone in Tennessee. This week I was in Austin attending a seminar for the Texas Process Servers Association when it was revealed that Houston (Harris county) requires far more than the industry standard for "due diligence" within its process service expectations. Knowledge of these types of potential pitfalls can mean the difference in having to pursue a continuance because service wasn't accepted by the court. When you need service of process in Nashville be it a subpoena, summons. complaint, citation, writ or other process count on Holton Services. Going above and beyond is my pleasure.


The Sheriff returned the summons or subpoena unserved

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When the Sheriff has failed to serve a subpoena or summons as a pro se client you may feel lost and depending on who you talk to at the courthouse you will certainly get conflicting information on your next step as that is not something that the clerks are trained on. What you need is an Alias summons as the police will have filled it out as not served and returned it to the court per the legal process. If you are party to the suit and at the clerks office asking for a subpoena to be re-issued the keyword is Alias Summons (Subpoena) once you have the same just jump across the bridge and drop it off.

Process service on hoarders, shut-ins, and "get off my lawn" types

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Serving a subpoena on a "shut-in" is not an easy task, it takes a well thought out strategy and execution to get someone who is avoiding all social contact to open the door. Choose someone with experience in threshold moments. Step through to Holton Services, the premier choice for Nashville process service. We don't let signs, dogs, or an inaccessible front door deter the course of justice.

A reminder for companies doing business in the state of Tennessee:

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A corporation transacting business in Tennessee is required to have a person or legal entity located in this State designated to receive documents on its behalf, and this function is served by the registered agent during normal business hours. The registered agent’s name and street address in Tennessee must be on file with the Division of Business Services at all times. Failure to have a registered agent in a state in which you are doing business can result in being prevented from doing business in the state and can also result in penalties.


Process service in Nashville when your info is outdated at best.

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Service avoidance is a common practice among those with the most to loose in litigation. The importance of getting a process server in Nashville with experience shouldn't be a lesson you have to learn in court. Due to the nature of litigation years have often passed since the incident. Witness or Defendants may have moved, business may have gone under or been bought out. Holton Services has experience in finding who you need served and making it happen. When you hire us we are part of your team and we are working to get you results.

Things to ask when choosing a process server in Nashville - shop around and ask how many papers they have served point blank

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I have had a few clients just this week come to us because they have used other process servers in Nashville who just "checked the boxes" and failed miserably at what should have been an easy process service. Holton Services works as the sole process service for several Nashville Law firms and cases from family to federal on a daily basis. This means we are constantly having our service accepted at all level of the courts and because of this you are going to get what you need for your case to move forward. Here are a few questions to ask your process server

1. How many papers have you ran.

2. What is your success rate for service accepted by the court?

3 Do you have any references, law firms that retain you?

4 Is this your full time job (this is a big one for making sure you have someone flexible enough to meet your specific needs)

 You spend a tremendous amount of resources preparing legal documents for presentation at court, its worth it to shop around and make sure you have a reputable process server, especially in Nashville.

Davidson County Background Checks

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Now running Davidson County criminal background checks. Navigating the system to pull your needed records is our pleasure. The cost is $25 and we will need a previous address + date of birth to get a certified copy of the court.

Why does it cost different amounts to serve in different counties

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Client's who are not attorneys are not used to private process and have a lot of questions.  One of the most common questions we get about private process service here at Holton Services is why does it cost different amounts to serve in different counties?  

One of the biggest reasons it costs different amounts to serve in different counties is because some counties are more rural than others.  If you need private process service in Nashville, Tennessee for example, Nashville is very urban.  There is a good chance that not only is the service location within thirty minutes of the courthouse, but also we are probably serving someone within thirty minutes as well.  It is easier to get multiple attempts done in one evening or day, faster, and much easier to hide out and wait for someone to get home.

If Mr. Holton is serving someone with private process outside of Davidson County but somewhere else in Middle Tennessee, it is going to be a more rural location.  It is very noticeable if the private process server is sitting on a rural road with only two or three houses that something is out of the ordinary, whereas a private process server a door or two down in Nashville Davidson County wouldn't garner much attention at all. This means that the process server must be very sneaky and can't stick around long in counties like Sumner or Wilson, and sometimes even Williamson, which means it is more likely to take multiple attempts to serve.  This means more trips, more time, and more gas for the private process server, which in turn means greater cost.  

Need a skilled private process server in Middle Tennessee?  Holton Services is here to help!  We have experience working for several law offices, including personal injury attorneys, employment attorneys, family law attorneys, and more!  We have served businesses and hard-to-find service avoiders!  Let our experience work for you and call us to make sure your service goes smoothly and efficiently.  (615)499-6522.  We can run, and they can't hide!

Using a Private Process Server - Any extra perks?

bradley holton

Using a private process server has extra perks.  I still remember the first time I got called to testify in Court.  I had served a person in Davidson County on a petition, and the attorney who had hired me had asked me to keep my eyes open because it was a very contested matter regarding support and the lawyer thought that the person was lying about their income earning abilities.  I went out and served the legal papers at the person's work and I looked around.  The person was working hard with a lot of employees, and even chatted with me a bit.  By showing interest, I found out a lot of information that they had been hiding from the other attorney and possibly even their own attorney.  I put all of this in a document for the attorney and she was very pleased.  

When it came to have a trial, I got a call from the attorney asking to testify.  I got to testify in Court about all the information I had witnessed with regards to the person working and what they had said about income.  There is no way any of that information would have been discovered had that attorney served the documents with the sheriff.  The attorney to this day five years later still uses Holton Services to serve private process in Davidson County and other surrounding counties in Tennessee, and is a regular client.  The client was also pleased, as I was told that my testimony about what I witnessed while serving was the turning point in the case. The small amount for the private process, and the trial time and testimony fee, helped make sure that client got a judgment exceeding five figures and was an excellent perk of using a private process server to serve process for them in Middle Tennessee.

Help - Juvenile Court told me I need to hire a private process server?

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Many of our clients are individual, regular people who the court sticks with getting someone served.  Frequently, we are contacted by people involved in child support or custody matters in the juvenile court who just get told vaguely by the judge that they need to hire a private process server with no other information.  We can help you obtain service of process.

In juvenile court, when you file (or child support services files) your petition, the court clerk will send out your legal documents to the other side via the sheriffs office.  Sometimes, the sheriff will obtain service and everything goes on from there, but many times the sheriff doesn't obtain service and the document comes back vaguely noted that the person can't be found and so the magistrate tells you to find a private process server.  So what do you do now?

Your first step is to find a private process server in your area.  If you are in Middle Tennessee, you can call Holton Services if you need to serve someone who is located in Davidson County, Cheatham County, Robertson County, Sumner County, Rutherford County, Wilson County, or Williamson County.  An employee from Holton Services will talk with you and arrange for payment and pickup or mailing of the legal documents.  Holton Services is a private process service company, so they will then take the documents and attempt to obtain proper service of process on the person.   Unlike the sheriff, you can let Holton Services know important things to help make sure the service of process is completed.  Examples of these things that a private process server can accommodate are people who work odd hours, people who may be avoiding service on purpose.  You can give them work addresses, work schedules, names of other people living in the home they can serve the documents on, pictures in case they are lying about who they are, daycare locations, pickup locations for other children, even if you happen to know they will be hanging out somewhere at a specific time.  A private process server in Middle Tennessee will also be able to arrange for filing of the service return if necessary, as some individuals do not know how to do that on their own.

Private process service does not need to be scary.  If you have been told by the Court in Nashville or other surrounding counties to hire a private process server, call Holton Services and they will help walk you through it and make sure your private process is done properly and in accordance to the laws of Tennessee regarding service of process.


Holton Services provides private process service for individuals as well as attorneys in Cheatham, Davidson, Robertson, Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Wilson Counties in Middle Tennessee.  Other counties available upon request.  Call for our flat fee schedule at (615)499-6522.  Let Holton Services work for you!