An interesting quandary pops up fairly regularly, and I find myself explaining the issue so frequently that it warrants a post. [TL;DR… in the U.S., corporations and other entities created pursuant to statute have registered agents. Elsewhere– and I mean just about everywhere else– the same types of entities only have registered addresses. You don’t have to worry about whether you’ve designated the right individual officer because there isn’t one.]
To the average lawyer in the U.S., defendant entities should be served by delivery to their registered agents (or CEO/CLO). In most U.S. states (or maybe it really is every state), an entity has to list a specific person or entity to act as its agent for service. Pretty straightforward stuff… I am the registered agent for my law firm and my wife’s consulting firm (both LLCs), and act as an agent for a few Missouri trusts established by a colleague who lives on the other side of State Line Road. Hand a summons to me, and you’ve served one or more of those entities. If you’re suing a certain carmaker in Dearborn, Michigan (think blue oval, truck models beginning with the letter “F”, and most cop cars), you look them up through the Michigan Secretary of State and find that, hey… Ford is a Delaware corporation, with a Michigan “resident agent,” The Corporation Company, located just outside Detroit.
But let’s say your client was injured in a Land Rover. A quick Google search tells you that the complete manufacturer’s name is actually Jaguar Land Rover Limited. You’d go to the official Companies House site in London, where a quick search yields JLR’s registry and the knowledge that its registered office address is on Abbey Road in Coventry (no, not that Abbey Road).
You can click on the “People” tab to find out all of the company’s officers and directors, but two words you won’t see are “Registered Agent.” The way they do it over there is to simply deliver process to the registered address, and it’s a done deal. A receptionist, security guard… we hand the docs to whoever is in charge of the address, and Bob’s your uncle.
Just for funsies, change the defendant one more time– say the allegedly defective car is a Beemer. It takes some digging to get to the German registry, but it shows BMW at Petuelring 130 in Munich (link has a bot-check)… and an address, but no mention of an agent.
That’s not a problem, especially in Germany, where service is actually of function of the court, rather than a duty of the plaintiff. A judicial official usually effects service, and they verify that a request bears the right address, but you still want to get it right the first time. Registries* are the best way to do that with entity defendants. Just disregard the lack of a designated agent. It’s no problem.
* The English registrar of companies maintains a fantastic list of links to other countries’ registries. They’re not all easy to navigate, but this is a great resource that has alleviated hundreds of headaches for my clients. That’s how I got to BMW in Germany.