Florida Court of Appeals Quashes Substituted Service of Process as Improperly Obtained

Injured parties generally do not consider the procedural aspects of a lawsuit, but they are very important to advancing a case. Where an attorney does not comply with the applicable rules of procedure it may result in delays in a resolution of the claims and, in some cases, may cause the case to be dismissed altogether.

In a recent case, Moss v. Estate of Hudson, a Florida Court of Appeals found that service of a Complaint on the defendant was not proper, and therefore, entered a motion to quash service. If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to a car accident in South Florida, it is important to retain an experienced South Florida car accident attorney who is thoroughly versed in what is required to comply with the laws of procedure.

Florida Laws Regarding Service of Complaint

Florida law requires a plaintiff to serve a defendant with the Complaint. If the plaintiff is unable to serve the defendant, in some cases the plaintiff can obtain substituted service. Under Florida Statute 48.171 if the defendant is a non-resident or resident who owns and operates a vehicle in Florida, who has since moved or is concealing his or her location, the operation of the vehicle within the state constitutes the Secretary of State as the defendant’s agent with regards to service of a Complaint in a case arising out of a car accident.

Factual Scenario

Allegedly, in Moss, a driver struck and killed a cyclist. A representative of the estate of the deceased cyclist subsequently filed a wrongful death claim against the driver alleging, in part, that the driver lived in Hernando County. The representative tried to serve the driver with the Complaint on multiple occasions but was unsuccessful. The representative subsequently tried to obtain substituted service of the Complaint through the Secretary of State, which the driver’s attorney moved to quash. The trial court denied the motion, due to the fact that the driver was represented by counsel and aware of the lawsuit. The driver appealed.

Appellate Court Ruling

On appeal, the court reversed the order denying the motion to quash and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held that the driver’s knowledge of the suit did not remedy the representative’s failure to properly serve the Complaint. The court explained that under 48.71, the representative must set forth facts within the Complaint to bring the driver within the scope of the statute. Specifically, the representative was required to allege that the driver was a non-resident, a resident who became a non-resident, or a resident concealing his whereabouts for substituted service to be proper. As the Complaint in question lacked any of the jurisdictional allegations needed for substituted service, the driver could not be served under 48.71.

Consult a Knowledgeable South Florida Car Accident Attorney Today

If you were injured or suffered the loss of a loved one in a car accident, it is essential to your case to retain an attorney with a thorough knowledge of the requirements imposed on plaintiffs under Florida law. The South Florida personal injury attorneys of Donaldson & Weston are well versed in what is needed to set forth a case that will provide you with a strong chance for a successful result. Contact us today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Florida Court Holds Policy Language Excludes UIM Coverage Benefits for Injuries Sustained by a Resident Relative in a Car Not Owned by the Insured, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 30, 2018

Florida Court Allows Wrongful Death Case to Move Forward, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, August 22, 2018

Florida Appellate Court Reviews Fatal Car Accident Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, May 2, 2018

10 Best 2015
The American Trial Lawyers Association
Florida Justice Association
Martindale-Hubbell
The National Trial Lawyers
Super Lawyers