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The California Courts liberally construe the substituted-service statute, Cal. Code Civ. Proc. 415.20, in circumstances where the party sued had actual notice of the pending action. Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 415.20(b) does not require that the process server himself mail the copies. It is sufficient if the mailing is effected at his direction.
When the defendant director Ronald and Cindy Haan’s motion was originally submitted, the Court determined that certain factual issues could not be resolved based on the existing record, the Court then scheduled a factual hearing. On the date of the hearing, neither side provided any witnesses. The parties submitted additional evidence, including the videotaped deposition of the process server, Mark Gittens. Gittens testified that he made several unsuccessful attempts to serve the defendant director. During the first two attempts, he spoke with the defendant’s housekeeper, who told him that the defendants were not at home. However, it was undisputed though that he left the papers at the front gate of the defendants’ property. Plaintiff, the Reynolds Corporation, commenced this breach of contract and tort action against a broker of long-distance services and the provider of those services, Operator Communications. Defendant directors moved to quash service of process pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(5).
Should the defendant directors’ motion to quash for insufficiency of service of process be granted?
The court denied the motion for insufficiency of service of process was denied. The directors did not dispute the applicability of Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 415.20(b), the substituted-service statute. Instead, they contended that the corporation did not fully comply with the requirements of that statute. However, since there was no dispute that the defendant directors received actual notice of the pendency of the action, the provisions of § 415.20 were liberally construed. The court added that although the defendant directors lived for a time at their Florida residence, the San Francisco property was also their dwelling house. Also, their housekeeper was a person whose relationship with the person to be served made it more likely than not that he would have delivered process to the named party and he was informed of their contents. Thus, the court concluded that the mailing by the entity that hired the process server to serve the directors was proper.