Chief Judge Roger L. Efremsky • Clerk of Court Edward Emmons

Judge Weissbrodt's Practice Tip - Service by Mail on Corporations, Partnerships and Financial Institutions

Practice Tip: Service by Mail on Corporations, Partnerships and Financial Institutions

On several occasions, matters before the Court have been continued due to improper service under Rules 7004 and 9014 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure (“FRBP”) . The majority of these service problems relate to service by mail on corporate entities and financial institutions in contested matters. To help the parties avoid these errors in future, the applicable provisions are outlined below.

FRBP 9014(b) provides that a motion in a contested matter must be served in accordance with the manner of service provided for service of a summons and complaint under FRCP 7004. See also, In re Villar, 317 B.R. 88 (9th Cir. BAP 2004). FRBP 7004 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Rule 7004. Process; Service of Summons, Complaint
. . .

(b) Service by first class mail.

Except as provided in subdivision (h), in addition to the methods of service authorized by Rule 4(e) -(j) F.R.Civ.P., service may be made within the United States by first class mail postage prepaid as follows:

. . .

(3) Upon a domestic or foreign corporation or upon a partnership or other unincorporated association, by mailing a copy of the summons and complaint to the attention of 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.

. . .

(g) Service on the debtor's attorney.

If the debtor is represented by an attorney, whenever service is made upon the debtor under this Rule, service shall also be made upon the debtor’s attorney by any means authorized under Rule 5(b) F. R. Civ. P.

(h) Service of process on an insured depository institution.

Service on an insured depository institution (as defined in section 3 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act) in a contested matter or adversary proceeding shall be made by certified mail addressed to an officer of the institution unless—

(1) the institution has appeared by its attorney, in which case the attorney shall be served by first class mail;

(2) the court orders otherwise after service upon the institution by certified mail of notice of an application to permit service on the institution by first class mail sent to an officer of the institution designated by the institution; or

(3) the institution has waived in writing its entitlement to service by certified mail by designating an officer to receive service.

Please Note:

  1. The Guidelines for Valuing and Avoiding Liens in Individual Chapter 11 Cases and Chapter 13 Cases for the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California (“Guidelines for Valuing and Avoiding Liens”) specifically provide:

Because a motion to strip lien seeks relief against a specific, identifiable party, debtor must comply with B.L.R. 9014-1(b) & (c). Debtor should take care to serve the affected lienholder in the manner required by the FRBP, and in particular FRBP 7004(b) and 7004(h) as to certain lenders.

Guidelines for Valuing and Avoiding Liens, ¶ 2.

  1. When a corporation is served to the attention of an agent for service of process, a copy of the motion must also be served on the corporation. Service on the registered agent alone is insufficient. FRBP 7004(b)(3).
  1. Service to the “attention of an officer, a managing or general agent” under FRBP 7004(b)(3) requires that the movant “determine the name of the president or other officer and make sure the envelope is addressed to him or her, by name.” In re Schoon, 153 B.R. 48, 49 (Bankr. N.D. Cal. 1993). Accord Villar, 317 B.R. at 93; In re Pittman Mechanical Contractors, Inc., 180 B.R. 453, 457 (Bankr. E.D. Va. 1995). Service to “Attn: Officer” is insufficient.
  1. The official website of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has a “Bank Find” search feature, which allows the searcher to determine if a financial institution is an “insured depository.” If an institution is an “insured depository” then the institution must be served in accordance with the provisions of FRBP 7004(h). This “Bank Find” search can be found at
  1. If the party being served has failed to properly update his or her address, service on the old address of record is proper. In re Cossio, 163 B.R. 150 (9th Cir. BAP 1994), aff’d 56 F.3d 70 (9th Cir. 1995). The burden is the party who has changed his or her address to ensure that his or her address is properly updated in the official records.
  1. If relief is sought against any entity that has filed a claim, all papers shall be mailed to the address shown on the proof of claim. B.L.R. 9014-1(b)(4)(A).
  1. Service of an objection to a proof of claim is governed by FRBP 3007, not 7004. Therefore, service of an objection on the person designated on the proof of claim as the notice recipient is sufficient. In re State Line Hotel, Inc., 323 B.R. 703 (9th Cir. BAP 2005), vacated and remanded as moot, 242 Fed. Appx. 460 (9th Cir. 2007).