No. No, no no… NO.
Stop believing key word results without thinking things through. Just stop it.
If you Google “Process Server Germany” a whole bunch of hits come back that would lead you to believe that you can simply hire a guy in Frankfurt or Munich or Berlin to walk up to a defendant and serve him. One search hit says they can get the job done in five days (not legally, they can’t). Heck, there’s even another vendor that says they can handle “Formal Hague” or “informal” service.
No. No, no no… NO.
Still another says that it can serve abroad for you whether the foreign country has signed the Hague Service Convention* or not! It just isn’t so, folks.
YOU CANNOT HIRE A PRIVATE PROCESS SERVER TO SERVE FOR YOU IN GERMANY.
(Hint: they don’t have them.)
If you don’t believe me, ask this nice lady from Arizona; she’ll give you a straight answer:
I’m serious here. Lawyers know that taking legal advice from Google is as bad as taking medical advice from Google– every question is too fact-specific to leave it all up to an algorithm, and doing so can be disastrous. And it’s even worse when your Google search leads you to an abjectly incorrect conclusion of law. Let me illustrate…
Let’s say you’re in a hurry, you have a grumpy client, and you’re being yelled at by an even grumpier judge. Your defendant is in Germany, and you need to get him served mach schnell.** So you Google “Process Server Germany” and come to the results list I railed about a moment ago. Notice something? Not a single attorney in the bunch, except one German attorney who agrees that they don’t have process servers, but then erroneously asserts that you can directly engage a German bailiff. On this side of the Atlantic, just a whole bunch of people who’ve apparently never heard of Volkswagenwerk Aktiengesellschaft v. Schlunk, 486 U.S. 694 (1988), the case that is as critical to overseas service as Miranda is to criminal defense.
Anybody who knows that case– and who is also familiar with Germany’s declarations opposing the alternative methods under HSC Article 10–knows that there is exactly ONE legal way to effect service on a defendant over there, and it involves a very lengthy wait following a request to an appropriate state authority. That’s it. You can’t mail it, you can’t email it (contrary to some very bad case law), and you definitely can’t hire a private agent to do it for you– if you do, that guy could be looking at some trouble for usurping the state’s authority.
But let’s also say you call the process serving agency that lands in the top five (or worse, whoever bid the highest pay-per-click on their AdWords portal) and they tell you it’s no problem getting someone served informally, they do it all the time, and if you’ll just send them a few hundred bucks, they’ll have a proof to you in a few weeks.
Whether that person is here in the United States or in a call center in Hong Kong, don’t buy it. If you do, your next call should be to your malpractice carrier to make sure you’re paid up on your premiums, because you’re taking bad legal advice from a non-lawyer and potentially injuring your client in the process.
Either follow the HSC or don’t bother filing the suit.
* Hague Service Convention… HSC for our purposes here.
** In short, quickly. Yesterday. Tick tock, Clarice. (Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist in Germany, and there’s no such thing as a service of process emergency anyway.)