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Drummond v. Armata Logistics, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 26, 2014



ERIC F. MELGREN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs Charles and Pamela Drummond ("Plaintiffs") seek monetary damages, both compensatory and punitive, from Defendants Armata Logistics, Inc. ("Armata") and Quang Le ("Le") for pain, suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, medical expenses, loss of earnings and earnings capacity, and emotional distress for injuries sustained by Charles Drummond in a December 2011 tractor trailer accident. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motions to Set Aside the Clerk's Entry of Default and Armata's Motion to Dismiss (Docs. 14 and 16). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motions to Set Aside are granted. Armata's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

This matter arises from the parties' involvement in a motor vehicle accident on Interstate 70 on December 21, 2011, in Douglas County, Kansas. Le, operating a commercial tractor trailer allegedly owned by Armata, "jackknifed" his trailer, effectively blocking the middle and right lanes of traffic on the highway. Charles Drummond, who was also operating a commercial tractor trailer, subsequently collided with Le's trailer, despite making attempts to go around the jackknifed unit. Charles Drummond alleges that he sustained injuries and damages arising from this collision, including a permanent restriction from his employment as an over-the-road truck driver, medical costs, and pain and suffering.

On December 10, 2013, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against Defendants in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas. Defendants failed to respond. On February 21, 2014, Plaintiffs filed an Application for Clerk's Entry of Default against Armata. The application was granted the same day. On March 7, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a nearly identical Application for Clerk's Entry of Default against Le, which was granted on March 10, 2014. Defendants again failed to respond. Therefore, on April 9, 2014, Plaintiffs filed Motions for Default Judgment against both Armata and Le seeking a total judgment in the amount of $895, 715.90, assessed as follows: (1) $600, 000 for lost wages, (2) $45, 715.90 for medical treatment, and (3) $250, 000 for pain and suffering.[1]

Three weeks after Plaintiffs' motion for default judgment, on April 30, 2014, both Defendants filed Motions to Set Aside the Entry of Default. As an alternative to its Motion to Set Aside, Armata also included a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) and (5) for insufficient service of process and lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiffs oppose both motions.

II. Analysis

A. Service of Process and Personal Jurisdiction

Armata first seeks to have Plaintiffs' Complaint dismissed for insufficient service of process and subsequent lack of personal jurisdiction. According to Armata, it did not respond to Plaintiffs' Complaint because, until April 22, 2014, it was not aware that the Complaint even existed. Plaintiffs oppose this motion and contend that proper service was made on December 30, 2013.

Pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal court lacks personal jurisdiction over a defendant if service of process is insufficient.[2] Upon challenge to a court's jurisdiction, a plaintiff bears the burden to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that jurisdiction exists.[3] "The parties may submit affidavits and other documentary evidence for the Court's consideration, and plaintiff is entitled to the benefit of any factual doubt."[4]

Under Rule 4(h)(1), a corporation may be served "by delivering a copy of the summons and of the complaint to an officer, a managing or general agent, or any other agent authorized by appointment or by law to receive service of process...."[5] The Rules also authorize service of process under the manner prescribed in Rule 4(e)(1), [6] which includes any method allowed under state law "where the district is located or where service is made."[7]

Armata initially argued that since Rule 4(h)(1)(A) specifically references Rule 4(e)(1), which deals specifically with service upon individuals, one must therefore follow K.S.A. § 60-304(a), which governs service upon individuals in the State of Kansas, to properly effect service. Not only does Armata fail to offer any case law to support its position, the prevailing case law on this subject makes clear that Armata's interpretation is incorrect. Courts in this district have time and again held that it is K.S.A. § 60-304(e) that governs service upon a corporation.[8]

In its Reply, however, Armata acknowledges that "to establish good service and avoid a dismissal of the suit, plaintiffs must show compliance with K.S.A. § 60-304(e), which provides for service upon a corporation ...."[9] Yet, Armata again misinterprets the statute, arguing that Plaintiffs' attempted service must fail even under § 60-304(e) because they "never attempted personal service on anyone."[10] Armata offers no support of its theory that personal ...

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