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In appropriate circumstances, a defendant may maintain more than one house of usual abode if each is a center of domestic activity where it would be most likely that defendant would promptly receive notice if the summons were left there.
Petitioner Francine Fettig and respondent Pamela Sheldon were involved in a car accident in Grant County allegedly caused by petitioner’s negligence. Six days before the statute of limitations would have run, respondent filed suit for damages in Grant County Superior Court. She served process by sending a professional process server to the home of petitioner’s parents in Seattle, where a copy of the complaint and summons was left with petitioner’s brother. Petitioner maintained a residence in Seattle where her parents lived, and in Chicago where her job was based. Twelve days after service was made, petitioner’s attorney gave notice of special appearance. Petitioner served an answer to the complaint, asserting, as an affirmative defense, that respondent had failed to effect proper service of process. After the statute of limitations and the 90-day extension period ran, petitioner moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the court lacked jurisdiction because service of process was insufficient. The trial court denied the motion and ordered that the defense of improper service of process be stricken. The appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court. On further appeal, the petitioner contended that the service did not comply with RCW 4.28.080(15) because her parents' home was not her house of usual abode.
Was the service of process insufficient, thereby resulting in the lack of jurisdiction of the court over petitioner’s person?
The court held that the term "house of usual abode" as used in Wash. Rev. Code § 4.28.080(15) was to be construed liberally to effectuate service and uphold jurisdiction and that a defendant could maintain more than one house of usual abode if each was a center of domestic activity where it was most likely that defendant would promptly receive notice if the summons were left there. The court found that petitioner's parents' home constituted such a center of domestic activity as she used the address for so many purposes as shown by the evidence. Further, the home was the place where she was most likely to receive notice of the pendency of a suit and thus, the trial court properly found that the petitioner had been properly served.