Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
Substitute service of process is effective when (1) a copy of the summons is left at defendant's house of usual abode, (2) with some person of suitable age and discretion, (3) then resident therein. The term "usual abode" is to be liberally construed to effectuate service and uphold jurisdiction of the court. Usual place of abode means such center of one's domestic activity that service left with a family member is reasonably calculated to come to one's attention within the statutory period for defendant to appear. Under certain circumstances a defendant can maintain more than one house of usual abode.
Plaintiff Ronald Vukich filed his summons and complaint against Richard Anderson in the Spokane County Superior Court, alleging property damages and unspecified outrage damage. Plaintiff’s process server left a summons and complaint with Jada Boyd at a home owned by Anderson in Nine Mile Falls. However, unbeknownst to plaintiff or his process server, Anderson had executed a written lease for the Nine Mile Falls residence with Jada Boyd, a person unrelated to Anderson. Anderson was currently residing in California. An order of default and default judgment were immediately entered based upon the process server's claim of substituted service. Anderson discovered the judgment when he tried to refinance his Nine Mile Falls property. Anderson moved to vacate the order of default and judgment as void for lack of personal service pursuant to CR 60(b)(5). The trial court refused to vacate the order of default but did vacate the $ 250,000 outrage award. Plaintiff appealed the trial court's decision to vacate the $ 250,000 outrage award. Anderson cross-appealed the court’s refusal to vacate the default order and judgment.
Under the circumstances, did the trial court err by refusing to set aside the order of default and judgment and concluding it had personal jurisdiction over Anderson by substituted service?
The court reversed the judgment of the trial court. According to the court, effective substituted service of process required that a copy of the summons be left at a defendant's house of usual abode. "Usual abode" meant such center of one's domestic activity that service was reasonably calculated to come to one's attention within the statutory period for a defendant to appear. In this case, plaintiff's process was served at a residence that was not the center of defendant's domestic activity at the critical time; thus, service was not reasonably calculated to come to defendant's attention. Because the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction, the judgment was void and the court erred by refusing to vacate the order of default.