Until recently, Illinois courts disagreed on how to serve process on residents of Cook County. Some Appellate Courts interpreted the law to require court appointment of a private process server when serving a resident of Cook County. Other Appellate Courts held that the county where the lawsuit is filed is the controlling factor to determine whether appointment is necessary. Thus, if a lawsuit were filed in DuPage County against a resident of Cook County, then court appointment would not be necessary.
The Supreme Court of Illinois recently resolved this disagreement in Municipal Trust and Savings Bank v. Moriarty, 2021 IL 126290. Service of process in Illinois is controlled by Section 2-202 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Moriarty involved a plaintiff who filed suit in Kankakee County against a defendant residing in Cook County. The Supreme Court of Illinois held that Section 2-202 is concerned with where process is served on a defendant. Therefore, for a private detective to serve process on a defendant in Cook County, he or she must be specially appointed by the court.
The ruling sheds light on a murky area of the law. It also adds to the expense of lawsuits, requiring further diligence by both attorneys and process servers. Special attention should be given to the location of defendants and its impact on service of process requirements.