How We Serve Papers in a Hospital

While most of the time process servers deliver papers to a subject’s home, that isn’t always the case. If your defendant or witness is in the hospital, it can create a unique challenge.

Here’s what you need to know about serving papers to someone in a hospital:

Check State Laws

Each state’s laws about serving an individual in a hospital vary. In Michigan, for example, service must first be attempted on the person in charge of the hospital (such as the CEO or hospital director), or a person designated by the individual in charge of the hospital (such as a secretary).

While the state where we’re serving papers may not have specific legislation controlling service of process in a hospital, our team always checks to confirm. We’d rather take a look at the laws before we attempt service than find out later that our service was not valid.

Serving Disabled, Incapacitated, or Incompetent Individuals

Serving someone in a hospital who is disabled, incapacitated, or deemed incompetent may still be directly served. However, we sometimes must serve that person’s guardian, conservator, or power of attorney in addition to serving the patient. In many cases, we may just serve the person’s guardian, even if we aren’t required to, just as a precautionary measure.

In some states, though, we are required to serve a representative of the individual. Therefore, our team checks the state’s laws to ensure we’re doing things the right way before we ever leave the office.

Serving Hospital Workers and Administration

In some cases, we have to serve people who work at a hospital, and we must complete the service while they’re at work. Or, we may need to serve papers in a lawsuit against the hospital or its administration.

If you’re serving a hospital or its administration, we may need to serve its registered agent, just like serving any corporation. We can often get this information from the secretary of state in the state where the hospital is located. It may take us some time to track that information down before we can serve your papers.

And, if we need to serve a doctor or nurse, we may have to follow specific state rules or the rules of the hospital regarding access to these people, and serving them may take a bit of extra time.

How HIPAA Comes Into Play

Contrary to popular belief, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not control public access to all health information about patients.

You can, for example, call a hospital and ask by name for a patient. The hospital then can legally report to you whether that person is in the hospital, a statement of their condition (ex: whether they’re stable), and their location within the hospital—unless it includes information protected by HIPAA. If the person has been admitted for psychiatric care or substance abuse, for example, the hospital may not be able to tell you where in the hospital they’re located because that would release protected health information.

In some cases, a patient may tell the hospital not to release any information about them. If this happens, our team will not be able to find them in the hospital, even if we ask for them by name.

Control Over Patient Access

In some cases, we may be able to visit the patient and directly serve their papers to them in the hospital. However, the hospital is allowed to prioritize the patient’s condition over visitation rights, and we may not always be able to access that individual to serve papers.

As process servers, we don’t hold any special privileges to patients or limited access areas. This can make it difficult for us to serve patients and hospital staff, and we may need to find an alternative method of serving process in your case.

Experienced Nationwide Process Service

At Torri’s Legal Services, we have years of experience serving individuals in a variety of locations and situations. We know what we need to do in order to get your papers served quickly, correctly, and legally. Call today for a quote!

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