Typically, when you want to sue a registered company in North Carolina, you would file the lawsuit and serve the summons and complaint upon the registered agent, but things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to.

A registered agent is a person or company assigned to accept service of process on a company’s behalf. Every corporation, LLC, nonprofit and other registered legal entities in North Carolina must have a registered agent listed on the Secretary of State’s website. The owners of the companies have an obligation to ensure that both the registered agent’s name and address are up to date; otherwise, the Secretary of State may dissolve the company.

The summons and complaint is the initial filing in a lawsuit. The summons says, in bold letters, “A lawsuit has been filed against you!” and contains limited instructions for the next couple of steps in defending the lawsuit.

When you’re suing a company, the first place you would look to find out where to serve, or delivery, the summons and complaint would be the Secretary of State website. They make it incredibly easy to search by company name and see the most recently updated registered agent for that company. You would then either send via certified mail with return receipt requested or pay the sheriff to deliver the summons and complaint to that address and that registered agent.

What happens when the address is invalid or the registered agent does not accept service on that company’s behalf?

In the case that the serving the registered agent does not work, in North Carolina, you can then serve the Secretary of State’s office with the lawsuit. To serve the Secretary of State, you would send the lawsuit to:

Service of Process Agent
NC Secretary of State
PO Box 29622
Raleigh, NC 27626-0622

You must include duplicates of the papers to be served and $10 per entity per service. For example, this means that if you have 3 defendants in your case, you must provide 4 copies of the papers and $30 to the Secretary of State’s office listed above.

Serving the Secretary of State is a valid service of process under North Carolina jurisdictional statutes. N.C.G.S. 53-208.29. Service in this way is accepted by the court unless the business can show good cause or excusable neglect. Even if the Secretary of State cannot find the business owner or another way to serve the business, service is still deemed proper because by doing business in the State of North Carolina, you commit to either having your registered agent accept service on your behalf or consent to having the Secretary of State accept service on your behalf should your registered agent be invalid.

If the Secretary of State cannot locate the business to be served, they will begin an admin dissolution of the company and the company will soon not exist. This is why it is very important to keep your registered agent’s address and name up to date and ensure that he or she is a good registered agent, capable of accepting service

For more information on serving lawsuits on companies, please contact us at richard@lawplusplus.com or by calling 919-912-9640.

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