Hukill v. Okla. Native Am. Domestic Violence Coalition

542 F.3d 794, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 19705, 104 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 641



Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2004(C)(1)(c)(1) provides that service upon an individual may be made by delivering a copy of the summons and of the petition personally or mailing a copy to the individual by certified mail, return receipt requested, and restricted delivery. If the service requirement is not substantially complied with then the court does not have personal jurisdiction over the case.


Ms. Hukill (Plaintiff) sued Defendant and elected to serve Spirits of Hope and Ms. Musgrove by following state law which states that service can be accomplished by mailng the summons and petition by certified mail, return receipt requested and delivery restricted to the addressee.  Ms. Hukill mailed both summonses to the Spirits of Hope business address, and marked one summons as restricted delivery. The other summons was not marked for restricted delivery.  At the time of these mailings, Ms. Musgrove was the executive director of Spirits of Hope and its registered agent for service of process, but she did not sign for either delivery. The same person, "L. Vollintine," signed both return receipts.  At that time, L. Vollintine was not an employee, officer, board member, or director of, or an agent authorized to receive service of process on behalf of, Spirits of Hope. None of the other defendants who were served by plaintiff were employees, officers, or directors of, or agents authorized to accept service of process for, Spirits of Hope at the time Ms. Hukill filed her complaint or effected service upon them.


Was service sufficient?




Although the executive director and the coalition had actual notice of the lawsuit, the state supreme court holdings that a plaintiff failed to substantially comply with a service statute specifying who was authorized to accept or refuse service, when service was accepted or refused by an unauthorized person, precluded the appellate court from finding that the employee substantially complied with the requirements for service by mail under Okla. Stat. tit. 12, § 2004(C)(2). Because the service did not substantially comply with § 2004(C)(2), the district court did not have personal jurisdiction over the coalition and the executive director, and erred in denying their motion to set aside the default judgment.

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