Sometimes you may be involved in a dispute with another party where the amount in controversy does not justify paying a lawyer to assist you and you are forced to bring the action yourself. In order to bring a lawsuit against another party, you have to personally serve them with a citation for your suit. But what do you do if you can’t locate the defendant for personal service on them? Service by publication may be your only option in such instance.
Service by publication is authorized for use in actions against a defendant whose residence is unknown, against unknown heirs of a decedent, against stockholders of a defunct corporation, against unknown owners or claimants of interests in real property, or for delinquent ad valorem taxes. Also, a court may also authorize service by publication under Rule 106 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure if justified under the circumstances.
The party serving by publication must conduct a reasonable search for the defendant before resorting to service by publication. A diligent search requires that the party make such inquiries that someone who really wanted to find the person would make. Reasonable inquiry is measured by the quality of the search rather than the quantity of the search. A lack of diligence makes service by publication ineffective.
The form of citation and the technicalities of service are set out in Rules 114 through 117 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. In general, service by publication is accomplished by having the citation that is issued by the court published in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for four consecutive weeks with the date of first publication being twenty-eight days before the return date for the citation. If the suit does not involve title to land, the citation must be published in the county where the suit is pending or in an adjoining county where a newspaper is published. In suits involving title to land the citation must be published in the county where the land is located or in an adjoining county where a newspaper is published. The return for the officer serving the citation must specify the dates of publication and be accompanied by a printed copy of the publication.
A defendant served by publication who does not answer or appear must be represented by an attorney appointed by the court to represent such party and, if a judgment is rendered against such party, the defendant has two years after the date of judgment to file a motion for new trial under Rule 329 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
DISCLAIMER Information in this article is proved for general informational and educational purposes only and is not offered as legal advice upon which anyone may rely. The law changes. Legal counsel relating to your individual needs and circumstances is advisable before taking any action that has legal consequences. This firm does not represent any person unless and until it is retained and agrees to provide such representation in writing.