State Supreme Court Rules Service Of Process, Not Return Of Proof Of Service, Key To Satisfying Deadline For Lawsuit

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled Thursday that a failure to promptly return proof of service of process doesn’t prevent a lawsuit from meeting the time deadline for filing suit so long as process is actually served within the appropriate time period.

Service of process is the act of giving legal notice to someone – usually with a summons – that they are being named a party to a lawsuit. In this case, Cristy Fair sued Stephen Cochran on December 11, 2009, citing his negligence in an automobile accident in which the two were involved on August 6, 2009.

A summons also was issued on Dec.11, 2009, and was allegedly served on Mr. Cochran at his home on December 20, 2009. The person who served Mr. Cochran did not promptly return proof of the alleged service to the court until after Mr. Cochran moved to dismiss the lawsuit in January 2011. The trial court granted Mr. Cochran’s request, and the dismissal was later upheld by the Court of Appeals.

The date of service is important because the filing of a lawsuit and notice to parties are required by law to meet certain legal time deadlines, known as statutes of limitation. In this case, that deadline was one year from the date of the accident to commence the lawsuit, and 90 days to serve process on the defendant Mr. Cochran.

In the majority Opinion, the Court determined that the rules that govern service of process do not require that proof of service of process be promptly returned to the court in order to effectively initiate a lawsuit, as long as the person sued is actually served within 90 days of a summons being issued. The Court has sent the case back to the trial court to determine whether that 90-day service deadline was met in this case. In light of the fact that Ms. Fair’s lawsuit was filed within one year of the accident, if the trial court determines that Mr. Cochran was served within 90 days after the summons was issued, Ms. Fair’s lawsuit may proceed.

In her concurring Opinion, Justice Janice M. Holder agrees with the majority that under one rule, the prompt service of process is sufficient to meet the legal deadline without immediate proof of that service. However, Justice Holder writes that the majority failed to adequately address another rule that requires one to “promptly make proof of service.”

To read the majority Opinion in Cristy Irene Fair v. Stephen Lynn Cochran, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, and the concurring Opinion by Justice Holder, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov


Georgia’s Unemployment Rate Rises To 5.4 Percent In December

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) announced on Thursday that the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate increased for the fourth consecutive month to 5.4 percent in December, up one-tenth of a percentage point from 5.3 percent in November. In December 2015, the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. The rate rose as the state’s labor force grew and the number of new ... (click for more)

Federal Grant To Help Workers Dislocated By Wildfire

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips today announced the Department has received a $5,824,000 grant from the United States Department of Labor to assist in recovery efforts following a wildfire in Sevier County last November.       The U.S. Department of Labor approved a National Dislocated Worker Grant, with $2 ... (click for more)

Haslam Unveils Comprehensive Tax Cut And Transportation Proposal Including Higher Gas Tax And Vehicle Registration Fee

Joined by mayors from across the state and leaders in the manufacturing and trucking industries, Governor Bill Haslam on Wednesday announced "a comprehensive and strategic plan to cut taxes on food and manufacturing while updating how the state provides Tennesseans the safe and reliable transportation network needed to support future job growth." The IMPROVE Act, “Improving ... (click for more)

Big Woody's Tree Service Employee Killed In Fall On Signal Mountain

An employee of Woody's Tree Service fell to his death 150 feet off a bluff while trimming trees on Signal Mountain on Wednesday. At  11:22 a.m. , a 911 call was made by an employee of the tree service reporting a man in his early 30s had fallen off a bluff the mountain while trimming trees on private property. Walden's Ridge Emergency Services responded to 6202 ... (click for more)

Beyond Freedom Of Speech - And Response

Yes, most people know about the First Amendment to our Constitution, "The right, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to express beliefs and ideas without unwarranted government restriction."  I being a "deplorable" draw the line when people block traffic, try to disrupt, and even stop an activity through malice and disregard for others. Case being ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Where Is Central’s Auditorium?

I am surely one of the biggest proponents of high school athletics there is, especially after half a decade of being an eye witness to the vast array of lessons that are learned every day by anyone associated with sports. That said, I have watched the Hamilton County Commission waffle on a $500,000 track at Central High School with a certain curiosity because the same high school ... (click for more)