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Kesha, Dr. Luke's Lawsuit, and the Chicken-Sticker Process Server

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 21, 2014 2:49 PM

The latest twist in pop singer Kesha's ongoing legal battle with producer Dr. Luke (aka Lukasz Gottwald) -- stemming from the singer's accusations that the prominent producer sexually and physically abused her -- is a lawsuit filed by Dr. Luke claiming that Kesha's lawsuit is an attempt to extort him and get out of her contract.

In any civil lawsuit, the defendant must be notified by service of process, which lets the defendant know where and by whom he or she has been sued and the time limit in which the defendant must respond. In this case, the person tasked with serving Kesha with notice of Dr. Luke's lawsuit got a bit creative, posting the notice to the door of Kesha's Los Angeles home using a rainbow sticker label from a package of organic chicken, TMZ reports.

While it's a nice touch, is this stickered notice legally sufficient as service of process?

New York's Service Rules

According to the picture posted by TMZ, Dr. Luke's lawsuit appears to have been filed in New York. Under New York's rules for serving the summons in a civil complaint, the summons can be served by anyone over 18 who is not a party to the lawsuit, including a professional process server. A copy of the summons and complaint may be served by personal service -- in which the defendant is given the summons and complaint directly -- or substituted service in which the summons and complaint is left with another person of suitable age at the defendant's residence or place of business.

However, if neither of those methods is successful, New York allows for conspicuous place delivery, otherwise known as "nail and mail." This method allows service to be affixed to the door of a residence of place of business of a defendant in conjunction with mailing the summons and complaint to the defendant within 20 days. Under this rule, the service to Kesha would likely be sufficient if the complaint and summons were also mailed, and if the plaintiff had made previous diligent efforts to make personal or substituted delivery.

Other Forms of Service

In cases where a defendant avoids personal or substituted service, plaintiffs or process servers may have additional options. Along with "nail and mail" such as the service in Dr. Luke's (aka Lukasz Gottwald's) lawsuit, a plaintiff may also be allowed to serve a defendant by publication, which involves publishing notice in a newspaper.

Courts in some jurisdictions have even allowed service of process via Facebook, with at least one federal court allowing a U.S. plaintiff to serve a group of defendants in India via the social media site.

But chicken stickers and Facebook aside, when it comes to serving a defendant, old-fashioned personal service is generally the most effective and legally sound way of getting the job done.

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