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May 27, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Ron Rugen, a process server and owner of Rugen Team Investigations, is good at finding people. Lawyers from across the country call on Rugen because when it comes to delivering documents that notify people of court proceedings, he’s the man.
What would surprise people about process serving?
They would probably be surprised to know that you don’t have to touch the papers to be served. They’ve seen so many Hollywood movies. And I don’t say, “You’re served.” I tell (people) they have a court appearance at this date and this time, and (who the plaintiff is). That way I’ve given them an understanding of what it is.
What are some of the trickier things you’ve had to do to serve people court documents?
I had a case probably 10 years ago, and it was my first time working for this lawyer, so I was trying to impress him. The sheriff in town couldn’t catch this woman. She would have her young kids open the door, so I went out there with the papers and a pizza box. I said, “Hello, are you so-and-so?” and she said, “I didn’t order no damn pizza, but yes, I am.” Normally you do things as professionally as you can, but if they don’t allow you to do the job, you do whatever you can to do it legally.
NAME: Ron Rugen
COMO RESIDENT SINCE: 2005
AT JOB SINCE: 1994
601 Business Loop 70 W., Suite 134 missouridetectives.com
What is a common misconception about your job?
A lot of people think it’s a delivery service. Realistically, if you’re doing it right, you get the job done while letting people maintain their dignity.
What has been one of your more exciting experiences working as a process server?
A few years back we had a guy no one could serve. He knew we were trying to serve him papers, and I ended up getting in a slow-speed chase with him. He was trying to turn onto Highway 63. I got out of my vehicle, walked to the median and threw the papers in his truck bed.
Has the job ever put you in danger?
I got bit by a dog once. It was a pit bull. I had to go to this house two or three times that day; I went back at night, and the dog was in the front yard. It came up, bit me on the leg and walked away. The gal opened the door, and I served her the papers. I told her the dog bit me. She was apologetic and asked if I wanted to come in and get cleaned up. But when I told her she could get in trouble for having the dog out where it could hurt someone, she told me to leave.
Once I was serving this little woman — she was probably 4 feet 11 inches or 5 feet — paternity-related papers, and she got emotional and rolled up the papers and hit me with them. I’ve served big guys and brutes but never had anyone hit me with the papers.
Are you armed when you’re on the job?
I do carry pepper spray and dog biscuits. I rarely carry a firearm, but legally I can use it. I’ve never had to use the gun or the pepper spray, but I have had to use the dog biscuits.
How do people typically react to being served with papers?
Typically they are caught off guard, but they’re polite. Or they’ll blow it off and act like they’ve been expecting them as a way of diffusing things. If I go to someone’s work, I’ll be as low-key as possible and ask for the person. I don’t want to embarrass anyone. It’s not anybody else’s business. On the rare occasion they are snitty, I have to change my tone. That’s a decision they make for me.
What is the most valuable personality trait to have in your line of work?
It helps being 6 feet 5 inches tall. No, most likely tenacity. You need to be creative. You need to not give up and work until you find the person or know for sure that they’re not where they’re supposed to be.