a consumer is serving court papers to a corporation

Serving a Corporation

Different rules apply when you serve court papers on a corporation.

Serving a Corporation

You must serve the Plaintiff’s Claim to a corporation doing business in California through their Agent for Service. An Agent for Service is the person or business that the corporation has chosen to accept court papers.

You can also serve an officer of a corporation. If the corporation is a bank, you can serve an employee. Call our Small Claims Court Advisor Program To learn more about this process.

Finding the Agent for Service

The Agent for Service must be registered with the Secretary of State’s Office.  The Secretary of State can be contacted at:

300 South Spring Street
Suite 12513
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Phone: (213) 897-3062


Serving the Agent for Service

The Agent for Service can be served by:

  • A Sheriff
  • A registered process server
  • A person over the age of 18 who is not involved in the case

Serving a corporation is always considered substitute service, so the claim must be served at least 25 days before the court date if the Agent for Service is in Los Angeles County, but 30 days before the court date if the Agent for Service is being served outside of Los Angeles County. In addition, a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim must be mailed first class mail to the Agent for Service.

If the corporation has no Agent for Service

You can serve the corporation through the Secretary of State when:

  • An Agent for Service has not been designated.
  • The Agent for Service has resigned and not been replaced.
  • The Agent for Service cannot be found.
  • The corporation is headquartered out-of-state, doing business in California, and has no Agent for Service in California.

Serving the Secretary of State

Before serving the Secretary of State, you must first get the court’s permission.  Take the following steps:

  1. Fill out the form Request for Court Order and Answer for an Order to Serve the Secretary of State on Behalf of a Corporation.
  2. File the motion with the court clerk.
  3. The clerk will give your motion to a Judge for approval.

When the Judge approves the motion

  • Mail two copies of the Plaintiff’s Claim; a conformed or filed copy of the approved court order; and a copy of the completed Request for Court Order and Answer you filed with the court to:

Sacramento County Sheriff
Civil Division
3341 Power Inn Rd. Rm 313
Sacramento, CA 95826

Include a signed “Letter of Instruction” directing the Sheriff to serve the Secretary of State.

  • Include two checks:

One payable to: California Secretary of State for $55.00. (This includes the fee for the Certificate of Mailing.)
The second payable to: Sacramento County Sheriff for $80.00.

  • Bring your receipt or cancelled checks with you when your case is heard in court as proof of service.

What happens in Sacramento?

  1. The Sheriff serves the forms to the Secretary of State.
  2. The Secretary of State forwards your Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to the Defendant corporation.
  3. Service is considered complete 10 days after the Sheriff sends the forms to the Secretary of State.
  4. The Secretary of State sends a Proof of Service to the Sheriff.
  5. The Sheriff will send a Proof of Service along with the Secretary of State’s Proof of Service to you. Bring these with you on your court date.

Court forms are available at California Courts – Forms. Select “Small Claims” from the pull down menu. Forms are also available at the Court Clerk’s office.

County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: Apr. 6, 2017