Serving Your Small Claims Complaint
Learn the requirements for “serving” (delivering) your small claims complaint to the party you are suing, including tips on how to serve individuals, how to serve businesses, and what to do if you are unable to serve your complaint.
After you file your Small Claims Affidavit of Complaint, a copy of the complaint must be delivered to each defendant. This is called "service of process." It is good practice to serve all defendants immediately after filing the complaint is filed.
In the Las Vegas Justice Court, you must serve a total of two documents on the defendant:
1. The Small Claims Complaint, and
2. The Instructions to Plaintiff or Defendant
These additional forms are available, free of charge, at the Self-Help Center, or you can download them from the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims Forms page or by clicking on the link underneath the form’s title below:
TIP! For more information about the specific requirements for a small claims case in the Las Vegas Justice Court, click to visit the Las Vegas Justice Court Small Claims page.
Below is a short video: Serving Your Complaint To The Defendant. Remember that different small claims courts have different procedures, so make sure you're complying with your court's requirements. To watch the entire small claims video series, click to visit our Videos page.
The small claims video series was made possible thanks to a grant from the State Bar of Nevada's Lawyer Referral and Information Service.
*This video was made before January 1, 2017. After that date, Las Vegas Justice Court changed its rules. There is no longer a requirement for the plaintiff to serve defendant with the answer form, and defendant is no longer required to file an answer.
Q&A – Serving The Small Claims Complaint
Who can serve my Small Claims Complaint?
Service of process must be completed by a person who is not a party in the lawsuit and who is over the age of eighteen. Service of process can be performed by the constable, sheriff, or a private process service. The fee is usually about $17.00 plus $2.00 for each mile traveled. If you use the constable, you will need to provide the constable with four copies of your complaint and other documents to be served. If you use the sheriff or a private process service, check to see how many copies they will require. Click to visit Constables & Sheriffs for contact information.
How do I prove to the court that my Small Claims Complaint was served?
The person who serves your complaint must complete an Affidavit or Proof of Service that states when and how your complaint was served. The affidavit must be filed with the court to show that the defendant was properly served. If you use the constable, sheriff, or a private process server, they will either file the Affidavit of Service with the court or give it to you to file in your case. Proof of service should be filed with the court as soon as possible. If the court is not satisfied that the defendant was served, your case will not be heard. If service is incorrect for any reason, your case could be dismissed or continued.
A form Affidavit of Service is available free of charge at the Self-Help Center, or you can download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:
LAS VEGAS PROOF OF SERVICE
HENDERSON AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE
N. LAS VEGAS (AND OTHER JURSIDCTIONS OTHER THAN LAS VEGAS AND HENDERSON) AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE
Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing for information about how to file in the justice court, or click to visit Justice Courts for links and contact information for your court.
How long do I have to serve a defendant?
The service deadline depends on the township in which you filed your case.
You must serve your Small Claims Affidavit of Complaint on the defendant (and file the Affidavit of Service with the court) at least ten business days before the mediation or trial date you received when you filed your case. If you are unable to serve your defendant within that time, you can file a Motion to Continue (if in Las Vegas) or Application to Reset Expired Court Date (for all other jurisdictions besides Las Vegas) to get a new hearing date. If allowed, the new hearing date will be set far enough in the future to allow you, hopefully, to get your defendant served. You must file proof of service with the court at least ten business days before the new date.
A form Motion to Continue and Application to Reset Expired Court Date is available free of charge at the Self-Help Center, or you can download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:
LAS VEGAS MOTION TO CONTINUE
PDF FILLABLE | PDF NONFILLABLE
HENDERSON, N. LAS VEGAS, AND ALL OTHER JURISDICTIONS BESIDES LAS VEGAS--APPLICATION TO RESET EXPIRED COURT DATE
PDF FILLABLE | PDF NONFILLABLE
Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing for specific information about how to fill out forms and file in the justice court, or click to visit Justice Courts for links and contact information for your court.
How do I serve an individual?
Each defendant must be personally served with their own copy of your complaint, even if they live at the same address. (And a separate Affidavit of Service must be completed and filed for each defendant served.) "Personal service" means that the defendant must be handed a copy of your complaint. The only exception to this rule is if the complaint is served at the defendant's home. A process server can leave the complaint at defendant's home address with any suitable adult (someone at least fourteen years old who lives there). However, the complaint must be given to a person and cannot simply be left in the doorway.
You may want to research the Nevada Revised Statutes to determine whether there is any alternative method of service allowed in your type of case. For example:
- If your case involves damages or loss you suffered as the result of the defendant's use of a motor vehicle in Nevada, you might be able to serve the defendant through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles. (NRS 14.070.)
- If your defendant lives in a guard-gated community, you may be able to serve the defendant by leaving a copy of the complaint with the guard. (NRS 14.090.)
- In an action against a landlord, you may be able to serve your complaint on the property manager or the party who entered into the rental agreement on the landlord's behalf (when there is no other agent designated in the lease). (NRS 118A.260.)
How do I serve a business?
If you are suing a corporation or other business, you generally must serve a person called the "registered agent." All corporations, limited partnerships ("LPs"), and limited liability companies ("LLCs") are required by law to designate an agent to accept service of lawsuits. (NRS 14.020, 78.090.) Corporations must provide the name and address of this agent to the Nevada Secretary of State's office. To find a company's registered agent, click to visit the Nevada Secretary of State Business Entity Search page.
If a business has designated a registered agent, you can serve your lawsuit on the business by arranging to have your complaint delivered to the registered agent. (NRS 14.020, 78.090.) You can have the registered agent served personally or by leaving a copy of the complaint with a person of suitable age and discretion at the registered agent’s address listed on the Secretary of State's website.
CAUTION! Do not name the registered agent as a defendant in your lawsuit! The registered agent is simply an entity that accepts paperwork on behalf of the business. Think of the registered agent as a mailbox for the business you’re suing.
Sometimes businesses change their registered agent, but do not update their information with the Secretary of State's office. In such a case, you may have several alternatives for service. For instance, a corporation incorporated in Nevada may also be served by personal service on the corporation's president, secretary, cashier, or managing agent. (JCRCP 4(d)(1).) If the corporation is incorporated outside the State of Nevada, a lawsuit may be served on the foreign corporation's managing agent, cashier, or secretary if they are within Nevada. (JCRCP 4(d)(2).)
If a corporation, LP, or LLC has not complied with the requirement to provide an agent who will accept lawsuits, and there is no other person you can serve, you may be able to serve the business by mailing a copy to the Nevada Secretary of State, posting another copy in the office of the court clerk in the court where you filed your suit, and mailing copies of the complaint to any corporate representative located out of state. (JCRCP 4(d); see also NRS 14.030.) However, before you do this, you will need to get permission from the court by submitting an affidavit to the court explaining everything that you did to try to serve the corporation or partnership and why serving the Secretary of State's office is your only viable alternative.
The rules on serving businesses and other entities can be complicated. If you are not sure how to serve your opposing party you can click to visit Justice Court Rules and study Rule 4 of the Justice Court Rules of Civil Procedure on service. You can also click to visit Nevada Statutes to review Chapter 14 of the Nevada Revised Statues.
TIP! You may want to research whether there’s a Nevada statute that provides some alternate way to serve your particular type of defendant. For example, there are statutes that discuss service on banks (NRS 666A.120, 666A.390), dance studios and health clubs (NRS 598.944), employment agencies (NRS 611.150), real estate brokers and salespersons (NRS 645.495), and the State of Nevada (NRS 41.031).
Generally, a domestic corporation that has gone out of business can be sued up to two years after the corporation dissolves. If you are planning on suing a corporation that has gone out of business, click to visit Nevada Statutes and read NRS 78.585 to make sure you are fulfilling all the appropriate requirements.
What if I have been unable to serve the defendant?
If you have made several failed attempts to serve your defendant, you can ask the court for permission to serve the defendant by certified mail. To obtain the court's permission, you must file a Motion for Service of Small Claims Complaint by Certified Mail. Be prepared to provide proof of all the ways the process server attempted to serve the defendant personally.
A form Motion for Service of Small Claims Complaint by Certified Mail is available free of charge at the Self-Help Center, or you can download the form on your computer by clicking one of the listed formats underneath the form's title below:
LAS VEGAS MOTION FOR SERVICE OF SMALL CLAIMS COMPLAINT BY CERTIFIED MAIL
PDF FILLABLE | PDF NONFILLABLE | INSTRUCTIONS
OTHER THAN LAS VEGAS--MOTION FOR SERVICE OF SMALL CLAIMS COMPLAINT BY CERTIFIED MAIL
PDF FILLABLE | PDF NONFILLABLE | INSTRUCTIONS
Click to visit Basics of Court Forms and Filing for information about how to fill out forms and file in the justice court, or click to visit Justice Courts for links and contact information for your court.
If the court allows you to serve by certified mail, service is valid only if the defendant picks up and signs for the certified letter. If you receive a card in the mail showing that the defendant picked up and signed for your letter, you must file that card with the court.
Service by publication is rarely, if ever, ordered in small claims cases.