Guide to Small Claims Proceedings in the District Court - Arranging for Service

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An essential part of a small claims case is notifying the defendant about the case. This is referred to as "service" on the defendant. If the defendant is an individual, you should try to serve that person. If the named defendant is a corporation, you should try to serve an officer, director, general agent, or attorney authorized to receive or accept service. The return of service must indicate the capacity of the person served.

If you are making "service" on the defendant without assistance from the clerk, there are three methods that can be used:

  1. First Class Mail: To use this method, you must obtain the Notice of Service Form (which has a space for the defendant to acknowledge receiving service) from the court or from the link above. Send a photocopy of the Statement of Claim (PDF) (and attachments), TWO Notice of Service forms and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the defendant(s). When it is received, the defendant (hopefully) will sign one of the Notice of Service forms and send it back to you. This method of service does not work well in many cases. If you do not receive the acknowledgment form within 20 days of the day you mailed the Statement of Claim to the defendant, it means that service has failed and you must try another type of service.
  2. Certified Mail: Send the photocopy of the Statement of Claim (PDF) (and attachments) to the defendant by CERTIFIED MAIL, RESTRICTED DELIVERY, and return receipt requested. When the defendant signs for it, the post office will return the green certified mail card to you, indicating the date that the defendant signed for delivery. If the defendant does not sign, the post office will hold the enveloped for about three weeks, and then return it to you marked "unclaimed." If this happens, you will need to arrange for service by a sheriff.
  3. Service by Sheriff. Make an additional copy (Front and back) of the Statement of Claim form (and attachments). You will need to give TWO copies (your original plus one copy) of the Statement of Claim (with Return of Service notice printed on the back) and any attachments to the sheriff's department. If the defendant's physical residence differs from the mailing address, you will need to include a note to the sheriff's department regarding where they can locate the defendant. Once the Statement of Claim is served on the defendant, the sheriff's department will send you the original, with the Return of Service completed on the back. You must give the original to the Clerk of Courts. The sheriff will not do that for you.

    The sheriff's department will tell you their fee for service which varies from county to county. Some departments require payment in advance. Contact the sheriff for the county where the defendant resides for the address and phone number of each sheriff's department in Maine.

If you request that the clerk arrange for service, a fee of $15 per defendant must be paid. Also, you must complete and sign an affidavit stating that you have not filed and do not intend to file more than three small claims cases within a month. (A clerk cannot arrange for service for a plaintiff who intends to file more than three cases.) If the clerk is unable to notify the defendant of the lawsuit by regular mail, then the clerk will arrange for service by the sheriff's office. You must pay the sheriff's fees for service before the documents are delivered to the defendant. Ask the Clerk how long it takes for service to be arranged.

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