If you are pursuing a claim against a motor vehicle owner or operator, and have attempted to serve the defendant using a commercial carrier, certified U.S. mail, or regular mail to his or her last known residential address, but have not been successful, you may be able to perfect service upon that defendant through the Ohio Secretary of State. Ohio Revised Code Section 2703.20 permits service upon the Ohio Secretary of State for:

  • Any nonresident of Ohio who operates or owns a motor vehicle in Ohio and accepts the privilege extended by the laws of the State of Ohio to nonresident operators and owners; or
  • Any resident of Ohio who is a licensed operator or owner of a motor vehicle, who subsequently becomes a nonresident or conceals his whereabouts.

This provision of the Revised Code states that, by such acceptance or licensure and by the operation of the motor vehicle in the State of Ohio, the owner and/or operator irrevocably appoints the Ohio Secretary of State as his agent for the service of process in any civil suit or proceeding arising out of, or by reason of, any accident or collision occurring in Ohio involving the motor vehicle.

You may be able to perfect service on the “hidden” defendant through the Ohio Secretary of State.

The party seeking to obtain service must file a praecipe for service upon the sheriff of Franklin County. The sheriff then serves the Ohio Secretary of State by leaving a true and attested copy of the complaint at the office of the Secretary of State and by sending the defendant a copy of the Complaint by registered mail. The defendant’s copy will contain an indorsement of the service upon the Secretary of State addressed to the defendant at his last known address. Once the Franklin County Sheriff returns confirmation of the above to the Clerk of Courts, where the action is pending, service will be deemed perfected as to that defendant.