This article will provide guidance on South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Disclaimer: Due to the law’s rapidly changing nature, there will be times when the material on this site will not be current. It is provided for general information and is not intended as legal advice. It should not be considered comprehensive or exhaustive and is not a substitute for advice from your attorney. We make no express or implied warranty as to the material’s accuracy, reliability, completeness, timeliness, or appropriateness for a particular purpose, including applicability to your jurisdiction or circumstances. We assume no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential damages resulting from your reliance on this material; you do so at your own risk. Seek the advice of an attorney. Comments, corrections, or suggestions should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. The information listed below may have been amended. For updated process serving legislation, please visit the South Carolina Courts website.
South Carolina Process Service Requirements
The sheriff, his deputy, may make a summons’ service or any other person not less than eighteen (18) years of age, not an attorney in or a party to the action. Service of all other processes shall be made by the sheriff or his deputy or any other duly constituted law enforcement officer or by any person designated by the court who is not less than eighteen (18) years of age and not an attorney in or a party to the action, except that a subpoena may be served as provided in Rule 45. (Amended effective May 1, 1986)
South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4. Process
(a) Summons: Issuance. The plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney shall issue the summons. Copies of the original summons shall be served upon each defendant.
(b) Same: Form. The summons shall be signed by the plaintiff or his attorney, contain the name of the State and county, the name of the court, the file number of the action, and the names of the parties, be directed to the defendant, and state the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney if any. Otherwise, the plaintiff’s address and the time within which these South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure rules require the defendant to appear and defend and shall notify him that in case he fails to do so, judgment by default will be rendered against him for the relief demanded in the complaint.
(c) By whom served. The sheriff, his deputy, may make a summons’ service or any other person not less than eighteen (18) years of age, not an attorney in or a party to the action. Service of all other processes shall be made by the sheriff or his deputy or any other duly constituted law enforcement officer or by any person designated by the court who is not less than eighteen (18) years of age and not an attorney in or a party to the action, except that a subpoena may be served as provided in South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 45. (Amended effective May 1, 1986)
(d) Summons: Personal service. The summons and complaint must be served together. The plaintiff shall furnish the person doing service with such copies as are necessary. A voluntary appearance by the defendant is equivalent to personal service. A written notice of appearance by a party or his attorney shall be effective upon mailing or may be served as provided in this South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure rule. Service shall be made as follows
(1) Individuals. Upon an individual other than a minor under the age of 14 years or an incompetent person, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to him personally or by leaving copies thereof at his dwelling house or usual place of abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then residing therein, or by delivering a copy to an agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process.
(2) Minors, Incompetents, and Persons Confined. Upon a minor under the age of 14 years, a person judicially declared incapable of conducting his affairs, or an incompetent person by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to such minor, or incompetent personally and also a copy to (a) the guardian or committee of such person, or if there be none such within the State upon (b) a parent or other person having the care and control of such person, or (c) any competent person with whom he resides or (d) in whose service he is employed. Suppose the individual upon whom service is made is a minor between the ages of 14 and 18 who lives with a parent or guardian. In that case, a copy of the summons and complaint shall likewise be served upon said parent or guardian if said parent or guardian resides within the State. Service on imprisoned persons or persons confined in a state hospital or similar institution, in or out of this State, shall be made by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the confined person personally; and the sheriff shall make service of the county in which the person is imprisoned or confined. In cases of persons imprisoned and patients in a state hospital or similar institution, personal service of process may be made by the superintendent of the institution or by the director of the prison system or by assistants duly designated by the superintendent or the director in writing to make service of process, instead of the sheriff. The superintendent or the director or their designated assistants shall not be entitled to any costs, therefore. Service on confined or imprisoned persons shall also conform to § 15-9-510, S.C. Code, 1976.
(3) Corporations and Partnerships. Upon a corporation or upon a partnership or other unincorporated association which is subject to suit under a common name, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or to any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process and if the agent is one authorized by statute to receive service and the statute so requires, by also mailing a copy to the defendant.
(4) State of South Carolina.
(A) When State a Party. Upon the State of South Carolina by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the Attorney General, or when another official is designated to be served by the statute permitting such action by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to that official and sending a copy of the summons and complaint by registered or certified mail to the Attorney General at Columbia.
(B) When Unconstitutionality of Statute is Asserted. In any action attacking the Constitutionality of a State statute, when the State, officer, or agency is not made a party, a copy of the summons and complaint shall be sent by registered or certified mail to the Attorney General.
(5) State officer or Agency. Upon an officer or agency of State by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to such officer or agency and sending a copy of the summons and complaint by registered or certified mail to the Attorney General at Columbia. If the agency is a corporation, the copy shall be delivered as provided in paragraph (3) of this subdivision of this South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure rule.
(6) Governmental Subdivision. Upon a municipal corporation, county, or other governmental or political subdivision subject to suit, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the chief executive officer or clerk thereof or by serving the summons and complaint in the manner prescribed by statute for the service of summons and complaint or any like process upon any such defendant.
(7) Statutory Service. Service upon a defendant of any class referred to in paragraph (1) or (3) of this subdivision of this South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure rule is also sufficient if the summons and complaint are served in the manner prescribed by statute.
(8) Service by Certified Mail. Service of a summons and complaint upon a defendant of any class referred to in paragraph (1) or (3) of this subdivision of this South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure rule may be made by the plaintiff or by any person authorized to serve process under South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4 (c), including a sheriff or his deputy, by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested and delivery restricted to the addressee. Service is effective upon the date of delivery, as shown on the return receipt. Service under this paragraph shall not be the basis for the entry of a default or a judgment by default unless the record contains a return receipt showing the defendant’s acceptance. Any such default or judgment by default shall be set aside under South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 55 (c) or Rule 60 (b) if the defendant demonstrates to the court that an unauthorized person signed the return receipt. If delivery of the process is refused or is returned undelivered, service shall be made as otherwise provided by these rules.
(e) Same: Other Service. Whenever a statute or an order of court provides for service of a summons and complaint or of a notice, or an order upon a party, not an inhabitant of or found within the State, service shall be made under the circumstances and in the manner prescribed by the statute, rule, or order.
(f) Territorial Limits of Effective Service. All processes other than a subpoena may be served anywhere within the State’s territorial limits and when a statute so provides beyond the territorial limits of the State. A subpoena may be served within the territorial limits provided in Rule 45.
(g) Proof and Return. The person serving the process shall make proof of service thereof promptly and deliver it to the officer or person who issued the same. If served by the sheriff or his deputy, he shall make proof of service by his certificate. If served by any other person, he shall make an affidavit thereof. If served by publication, the printer or publisher shall make an affidavit thereof. The party or his attorney shall make an affidavit of mailing if the process’s mailing is permitted or required by law. Failure to make proof of service does not affect the validity of the service. The proof of service shall state the date, time, and place of such service and, if known, the name and address of the person served at the address of such person, and if not known, then the date, time, and place of service and a description of the person served. If service was by mail, the person serving process shall show in his proof of service the date and place of mailing and attach a copy of the return receipt or returned envelope when received by him showing whether the mailing was accepted, refused, or otherwise returned. If the mailing was refused, the return should also prove any further service on the defendant under paragraph (8) of subdivision (d) of this rule. The return, along with the receipt or envelope and any other proof, shall be promptly filed by the clerk with the pleadings and become a part of the record.
(h) Proof of service without the State. When the service is made out of the State, the proof of such service may be made, if within the United States, by affidavit before:
(1) Any person in this State authorized to make an affidavit;
(2) A commissioner of deeds for this State;
(3) A notary public who shall affix thereto his official seal, or
(4) A clerk of the court of record who shall certify the same by his official seal; and,
(5) If made without the United States limits, before a consul, vice-consul, or consular agent of the United States who shall use in his certificate his official seal.
(i) Amendment. At any time in its discretion and upon terms as it deems, the court may, by written order, allow any process or proof of service thereof to be amended unless it appears that material prejudice would result in the substantial rights of the party against whom the process issued.
(j) Acceptance of Service. No other proof of service shall be required when acceptance of service is acknowledged in writing and signed by the person served or his attorney and delivered to the person doing service. The acknowledgment shall state the place and date service is accepted.
Rule 45 Subpoena
(a) Form; Issuance.
(1) Every subpoena shall:
(A) please state the name of the court from which it is issued; and
(B) state the title of the action, the name of the court in which it is pending, and its civil action number; and
(C) command each person to whom it is directed to attend and give testimony or produce and permit inspection and copying of designated books, documents, or tangible things in the possession, custody, or control of that person, or to permit inspection of premises at a time and place therein specified; and
(D) set forth the text of subdivisions (c) and (d) of this rule. A command to produce evidence or permit inspection may be joined with a command to appear at trial or hearing or deposition or be issued separately.
(2) A subpoena commanding attendance at a trial or hearing shall issue from the court for the county in which the hearing or trial is to be held. A subpoena for attendance at a deposition shall issue from the court for the county designated by the deposition’s notice as the county in which the deposition is to be taken. If separate from a subpoena commanding a person’s attendance, a subpoena for production or inspection shall issue from the court for the county in which production or inspection is to be made. Provided, however, that a subpoena to a person who is not a party or an officer, director, or managing agent of a party commanding attendance at a deposition or production or inspection shall issue from the court for the county in which the non-party resides or is employed or regularly transacts business in person.
(3) The clerk shall issue a subpoena, signed but otherwise in blank, to a party requesting it, who shall complete it before service. An attorney, as an officer of the court, may also issue and sign a subpoena on behalf of a court in which the attorney is authorized to practice.
(1) A subpoena may be served by any person who is not a party and is not less than 18 years of age. Service of a subpoena upon a person named therein shall be made by delivering a copy thereof to such person and, if the person’s attendance is commanded, by tendering to that person the fees for one day’s attendance of $25.00 and the mileage allowed by law for official travel of State officers and employees. When the subpoena is issued on behalf of South Carolina or an officer or agency, fees and mileage need not be tendered. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, prior notice in writing of any commanded production of documents and things or inspection of premises before trial shall be served on each party in the manner prescribed by Rule 5(b) at least ten days before the time specified for compliance.
(2) Subject to the provisions of clause (ii) of subparagraph (c)(3)(A) of this rule, a subpoena may be served at any place within the State. Provided, however, that a subpoena to a person who is not a party or an officer, director, or managing agent of a party, commanding attendance at a deposition or production or inspection shall issue from the court for the county in which the non-party resides or is employed or regularly transacts business in person and be served in that county.
(3) Proof of service, when necessary, shall be made by filing with the clerk of the court by which the subpoena is issued a statement of the date and manner of service and of the names of the persons served, certified by the person who did the service.
(c) Protection of Persons Subject to Subpoenas.
(1) A party or an attorney responsible for the issuance and service of a subpoena shall take reasonable steps to avoid imposing undue burden or expense on a person subject to that subpoena. The court on behalf of which the subpoena was issued shall enforce this duty and impose upon the party or attorney in breach of this duty an appropriate sanction, which may include, but is not limited to, lost earnings and a reasonable attorney’s fee.
(2)(A) A person commanded to produce and permit inspection and copying of designated books, papers, documents, or tangible things or inspection of premises need not appear in person at the place of production or inspection unless commanded to appear for deposition, hearing, or trial. A party or an attorney responsible for a subpoena’s issuance and service for the production of books, papers, and documents without a deposition shall provide to another party copies of documents so produced upon written request. The party requesting copies shall pay the reasonable costs of reproduction.
(B) Subject to paragraph (d)(2) of this rule, a person commanded to produce and permit inspection and copying may, within 14 days after service of the subpoena or before the time specified for compliance if such time is less than 14 days after service, serve upon the party or attorney designated in the subpoena written objection to inspection or copying of any or all of the designated materials or the premises. If an objection is made, the party serving the subpoena shall not be entitled to inspect and copy the materials or inspect the premises except under the court’s order by which the subpoena was issued. If objection has been made, the party serving the subpoena may, upon notice to the person commanded to produce, move at any time in the court that issued the subpoena for an order to compel the production. Such an order to compel production shall protect any person who is not a party or an officer of a party from significant expense resulting from the inspection and copying commanded.
(3)(A) On timely motion, the court by which a subpoena was issued, or regarding a subpoena commanding appearance at a deposition, or production or inspection directed to a non-party, the court in the county where the nonparty resides, is employed or regularly transacts business in person, shall quash or modify the subpoena if it:
(i) fails to allow a reasonable time for compliance; or
(ii) requires a person who is not a party nor an officer, director, or managing agent of a party, nor a general partner of a partnership that is a party, to travel more than 50 miles from the county where that person resides, is employed or regularly transacts business in person, except that, subject to the provisions of clause (c)(3)(B)(iii) of this rule, such a person may attend trial be commanded to travel from any such place within the state in which the trial is held, or
(iii) requires disclosure of privileged or otherwise protected matter and no exception or waiver applies; or
(iv) subjects a person to undue burden.
(A) If a subpoena:
(i) requires disclosure of a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information, or
(ii) requires disclosure of an unretained expert’s opinion or information not describing specific events or occurrences in dispute and resulting from the expert’s study made not at the request of any party, or
(iii) requires a person who is not a party nor an officer, director or managing agent of a party, nor a general partner of a partnership that is a party, to incur substantial expense to travel from the county where that person resides, is employed or regularly transacts business in person the court may, to protect a person subject to or affected by the subpoena, quash or modify the subpoena or, if the party in whose behalf the subpoena is issued shows a substantial need for the testimony or material that cannot be otherwise met without undue hardship and assures that the person to whom the subpoena is addressed will be reasonably compensated, the court may order appearance or production only upon specified conditions.
(d) Duties in Responding to Subpoena.
(1) A person responding to a subpoena to produce documents shall produce them as they are kept in the usual business course or organize and label them to correspond with the categories in demand.
(2) When information subject to a subpoena is withheld on a claim that it is privileged or subject to protection as trial preparation materials, the claim shall be made expressly. It shall be supported by a description of the nature of the documents, communications, or things not produced sufficient to enable the demanding party to contest the claim.
(e) Contempt. Failure by any person without adequate excuse to obey a subpoena served upon that person may be deemed a contempt of the court from which the subpoena was issued. An adequate cause for failure to obey exists when a subpoena purports to require a non-party to attend a deposition, permit an inspection, or produce at a place not within limits provided by clause (ii) of subparagraph (c)(3)(A).
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