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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Trial Court's Dismissal of Civil Action Upheld on Appeal Because Plaintiff Failed to Have Leading Process Reissued and Properly Served upon a Defendant

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Middleton v. City of Millington, No. W2018-00338-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 11, 2018).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads as follows:
The trial court granted summary judgment to defendant city on the basis of the expiration of the statute of limitations. Specifically, the trial court ruled that plaintiff’s complaint was ineffective to toll the statute of limitations where service of process on the city clerk did not comply with Rule 4.04(8) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and process was not reissued. Discerning no error, we affirm.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This opinion cites one of my cases, Fair v. Cochran, 418 S.W.3d 542, 544 (Tenn. 2013).  MiddletonW2018-00338-COA-R3-CV, slip op. at 3.  Both this opinion and Fair are must-reads if you practice on the civil side in Tennessee state courts because they stress the point that while filing a civil action within the applicable statute of limitations is vitally important, the service of leading process is also vitally important to prevent claims in a civil action from becoming time-barred.  

What can a plaintiff do when insufficiency of service of process is pleaded as an affirmative defense like what was done in this case?  Take a look at Rule 4.07 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, which can be viewed at this link:

Rule 4.07 has a cost-shifting provision that helps ensure that a defendant is properly before a Tennessee state court (much like the similar federal provision).  It has some teeth.

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