Judgments against employees based on service on employer

We have encountered a number of cases in which judgments were obtained from Illinois courts based on service of the summons and complaint on the employer of the individual defendant pursuant to court orders authorizing such service. Usually the employer is a substantial corporation and the summons and complaint were sent to the human resources department, often at corporate headquarters rather than the specific location where the individual actually worked. Often that is the only method of giving notice to the employee.

We believe that any judgment against an ordinary employee based entirely on service on an employer are constitutionally invalid. Service must be reasonably calculated to provide actual notice to the individual sued on a timely basis, i.e., in time to comply with the deadlines set by the court. There is no reason to believe that service on an employer will result in actual and timely notice to an ordinary employee. An old Illinois statute authorizing such services was found unconstitutional on its face. Community Thrift Club, Inc. v. Dearborn Acceptance Corp., 487 F. Supp. 877, 878 (N.D. Ill. 1980).  More recent cases on the subject find that service on a corporation may be constitutionally effective notice to someone who is a director or officer of the entity, on the theory that any employee who is ordinarily under the supervision of the director or officer would consider themselves obligated to get them the document promptly. CKR Law LLP v. Anderson Invs. Int'l, LLC, 525 F.Supp.3d 518 (S.D.N.Y. 2021).  In any other case the employer is likely to consider the request a nuisance and either not comply or take such time to comply as to prevent compliance with court deadlines. In the cases we have seen, there is no evidence that the document was actually provided to the employee or when it was provided.

We are interested in challenging any such judgment.

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