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Mid-Continent Wood Prods., Inc. v. Harris - 936 F.2d 297 (7th Cir. 1991)

Rule:

Valid service of process is necessary in order to assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant. Moreover, a defendant's actual notice of the litigation is insufficient to satisfy Fed. R. Civ. P. 4's requirements.

Facts:

Defendant debtor sought review of a decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, denying defendant's motion to vacate and dismiss a default judgment obtained by plaintiff creditor on the grounds of improper service under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1). Defendant debtor challenged the district court's denial of defendant's motion seeking to set aside a default judgment obtained by plaintiff creditor for a commercial debt. Plaintiff was unable to locate any of defendant's assets upon which to execute judgment until six years after the default judgment was rendered. Defendant then filed a motion for relief from judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), claiming that he had never been served with the complaint in the manner prescribed by Rule 4(d)(1).

Issue:

Was the district correct when it created its own criteria for service of process if the service does not comply with the requirements in Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court reversed the district court's decision denying defendant debtor's motion to set aside a default judgment procured by plaintiff creditor six years before. The court held that the district court erred in crafting its own three-part test and finding that plaintiff had substantially complied with the dictates of Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(d)(1). Exact compliance with the rule was required. Plaintiff failed to demonstrate exact compliance. The fact that defendant had actual knowledge of plaintiff's suit was immaterial. The court reversed and remanded, with instructions to the district court to grant defendant's motion to vacate plaintiff's default judgment.

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