From time to time, we find that some defendants’ addresses cannot be determined, or that a defendant is purposely concealing their whereabouts for the purpose of evading service of process.

Generally, when a civil lawsuit is filed, service of the complaint is issued to an individual defendant at his or her last known residential address. However, from time to time, we find that some defendants’ addresses cannot be determined, or that a defendant is purposely concealing their whereabouts for the purpose of evading service of process. In those circumstances, the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure provides an alternate means for serving those “hidden” defendants.

The Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure provides an alternate means for serving those “hidden” defendants.

Ohio Civil Rule 4.4(A) permits an individual to be served by publication when his or her address is unknown. To serve a defendant by publication when the defendant’s address is unknown, the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel must file an affidavit with the court averring the following:

  1. That service of summons cannot be made because the residence of the defendant is unknown to the affiant;
  2. All efforts made on behalf of the plaintiff to ascertain the defendant’s residence; and
  3. That the residence of the defendant cannot be ascertained with reasonable diligence.

Once the affidavit is filed, the clerk of courts shall cause service of notice to be made by publication in a newspaper of general circulation in the county in which the complaint is filed. Should there be no newspaper published in the county where the action is pending, then publication shall be made in a newspaper published in an adjoining county.

After perfecting service by publication, the case may proceed against the “hidden” defendant.

The publication must contain the name and address of the court, the case number, the name of the first party on each side, and the name and last known address, if any, of the defendant whose residence is unknown. The publication shall also contain a summary statement of the object of the complaint and demand for relief, and shall notify the defendant that he or she is required to answer within twenty-eight days after publication. The publication must run for six consecutive weeks before service will be deemed perfected. Service will be indicated as complete as of the date of the last publication, and upon the filing of an affidavit by the publisher, showing the fact of publication together with a copy of the notice of publication. After perfecting service by publication, the case may proceed against the “hidden” defendant.