Service on a party while in court - Georgia law

Sometimes, it's tempting to serve someone when she is known to be coming to court for another matter. This is usually not permitted, but there are exceptions.



a suitor or a witness in attendance upon the trial of any case in court, is privileged from arrest under any civil process, and is exempted from the service of any writ or summons upon him or them while in attendance upon such court, or in going to or returning therefrom.


Steelman v. Fowler, 234 Ga. 706, 217 S.E.2d 285 (1975).


            There are two exceptions.  First, “it does not apply to criminal defendants or nonresidents, who are in this state temporarily ‘for some purpose other than to appear in court as a party or witness.’”  Loiten v. Loiten, 288 Ga. App. 638, 655 S.E.2d 265 (2007)citing Ausbon v. Ausbon, 131 Ga. App. 530, 531, 206 S.E.2d 546 (1974). 


            Second, it only protects “a party in attendance upon the trial of a case from service of process in a new action.” Blalock v. Blalock, 247 Ga. 548, 550, 277 S.E.2d 655 (1981).  For instance, a party suing for contempt could be served in court with a modification of custody matter which was actually a part of the same matter.  Id.



            In Loiten, the defendant appeared at trial to contest a restraining order entered against him ex parte for which he was not properly served (he received the order but not the petition).  At the hearing, the trial court asked him to waive service which he refused.  The court then instructed the sheriff to serve the defendant in the parking lot.  On appeal, the service was found to be ineffective.  Id. at 638.  The court held that although an ex parte hearing had been previously had, the matter was new to the defendant and therefore he was protected by the Steelman rule.

What happens when the signor of a guaranty adds a title e.g. "president" by her signature?

I once dealt with a situation where the guarantor for a corporate debtor signed the guaranty agreement with "president" by his name. He claimed he was signing not as an individual but as a corporate representative. This usually won't do since the guaranty clearly named the individual and it made little sense for the corporate guarantor to be the corporation (the principal).

Georgia case law:


A title such as “sec.” or “CEO” signed on a guaranty is a mere word of description and the signor remains personally liable.  See O.C.G.A. § 10-6-86; Upshaw v. Southern Wholesale Flooring Co., 197 Ga. App. 511, 398 S.E.2d 749 (1990); Keane v. Annice Heygood Trevitt Support Trust, 285 Ga. App. 155, 645 S.E.2d 641 (2007).  In Upshaw, the appellant placed the abbreviation “Sec.” immediately after her signature.  The court found this to be merely descriptive as the contract was unambiguous that she was signing in her personal capacity.  Likewise, in Keane, the appellant claims he signed “CEO” after his name although it was unreadable.  The court dismissed this argument as “there is nothing in the language of the guaranty to suggest that Keane was entering the obligation as a corporate officer.”  Id.


Secondly, in both Upshaw and Keane, the court found that removing the personal liability would render the obligation meaningless “as the corporation was already obligated on the debt” and summary judgment was thus proper.  Keane at 158; Upshaw at 513.