When you are pursuing a civil lawsuit for injuries you suffered in an auto accident, you may think about the factual issues in your case – physical proof of injuries, physical proof of the other party’s negligence, and other things related to the factual side of your case. But succeeding in your case can involve so much more. Even legal procedural things that might seem simple, like serving the defendant, may become complex and be an area where the skill and knowledge of an experienced Tennessee car accident attorney can offer invaluable benefits.
One recent case offered such an example of a situation in which a seemingly small procedural detail can (and, in this case, did) become a major roadblock. That detail was the plaintiff’s efforts to serve notice on the defendant of her auto accident lawsuit.
As with any civil lawsuit, serving notice of the action upon the defendant was one of the first steps. In many cases, this step can be fairly straightforward and uneventful, but not necessarily in every case. The plaintiff attempted to have a summons served upon the defendant at an apartment address in Memphis, but she was not successful. The plaintiff next tried serving the defendant at an address in Holly Springs, Mississippi via certified mail. The plaintiff also tried two more personal residence addresses in Holly Springs, in addition to the Internal Revenue Service office in Memphis, where the defendant was believed to have worked.
The defendant sought to have the case against her dismissed. She argued that the plaintiff had not properly served her and that the statute of limitations had expired. The trial court sided with the defendant and dismissed the case, concluding that the plaintiff had “intentionally delayed service of process” because she did not submit a return of service document within 90 days of the summons’ issuance. The Court of Appeals reversed that decision and sent the case back to the trial court to allow the plaintiff to proceed. The appeals court, relying on a 2013 Supreme Court case covering the same topic, stated that no “portion of Rule 4.03 mandates filing the return of proof of service within ninety days.”
On the second time around, the defendant launched another procedural attack, challenging the validity of the mailing process the plaintiff used on the certified mail notice. Again, the trial court agreed and dismissed the case. Again, the appeals court reversed and revived the plaintiff’s case. This time, the appeals court concluded that the defendant’s defense (attacking the validity of the mailing of service due to the absence of a “certified copy”) was something that she had legally waived. Legally “waived” meant that, because of some action the defendant did or did not take, she had forfeited the right to advance that defense. The defendant had not brought up the certified copy issue in her January 2016 motion to dismiss filing and waited until a June 2016 hearing to bring it up for the first time. That was too late, according to the appeals court.
Even the smallest of procedural details can potentially make all of the difference between a successful outcome and an unsuccessful one in your case. To make sure that you give yourself a good chance of success, rely upon the skillful Tennessee car accident attorneys at the Law Office of David S. Hagy, PSC. We have been helping people hurt in auto accidents for many years and is ready to get to work for you.
Reach us online or call (615) 975-7882.
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- Appeals Court Upholds Jury Verdict Assessing 50-50 Fault Split in Two-Car Accident, Nashville Trial Lawyer Blog, May 13, 2014
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