In order to sue somebody in the State of Maryland, the person who is suing (the plaintiff) must make sure that the person being sued (the defendant) knows that they are being sued and has an opportunity to defend themself.  The process by which the plaintiff makes sure that the defendant knows about the lawsuit is by serving the complaint, a summons, and other filed papers on the defendant.  See Maryland Rule 3-121 through 3-126.

There are three main ways that service is permitted in District Court.  

First, the summons and complaint can be hand-delivered to the defendant. An individual may be served by a sheriff or any competent private person 18 years of age or older.  

Second, by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint with a resident of suitable age (18 years or older) and discretion at the individual’s home (dwelling house or usual place of abode).  

Third, by mailing a copy of the summons and complaint by certified mail requesting “Restricted Delivery – show to whom, date, address of delivery.”

You may not actively avoid or evade service.  A court may order that service be effectuated by another method if the defendant purposely avoids being served.

The Court may allow other modes of service if these modes are insufficient.

What to do if you have not been properly served:

If you have not been properly served, you may make a request that the case be dismissed before the case starts.  You may also list this on the Notice of Intention to Defend and make this argument at trial. 

If you are not sure who in your home was served, the Writ of Summons will list the description of the person who was served.

Please note that even if you case is dismissed for improper service, this does not end the lawsuit.  The person suing you may serve you again with papers, though the Court will schedule a new trial date.  

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This site offers legal information, not legal advice, hopefully, it will give some guidance on steps you can take when you have been sued. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information and to clearly explain your options. However, we do not provide legal advice – the application of the law to your individual circumstances. For legal advice, you should consult the self-help center or an attorney.