Washington Case Law Update: Plaintiff Must Attempt Service at ALL Known Addresses of Defendant – Whether in Washington or Elsewhere – Before Substitute Service on Secretary of State is Proper

Washington Case Law Update: Plaintiff Must Attempt Service at ALL Known Addresses of Defendant – Whether in Washington or Elsewhere – Before Substitute Service on Secretary of State is Proper

From the desk of Smith Freed Eberhard: Washington law permits a plaintiff injured in a car accident to serve the secretary of state with the summons and complaint—instead of the defendant—in certain circumstances. The statute, RCW 46.64.040, imposes strict conditions that an attorney must follow in order to properly divert service from the defendant to the secretary of state. This method of service is utilized when a non-resident is involved in a car accident and the resident plaintiff cannot, with due diligence, find the non-resident. What if a plaintiff attempting substitute service knows the out-of-state address of the defendant but fails to attempt service there? Can the plaintiff still comply with the statute and effectuate service by serving the secretary of state? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this appeal from a grant of summary judgment, the Washington Court of Appeals interpreted RCW 46.64.040 to determine whether a plaintiff complied with the statute when her attorney failed to personally serve a non-resident defendant. Identifying that a plaintiff is required to strictly comply with the statute in order to properly attain substitute service, the court interpreted the statute to require a plaintiff to attempt service at all known addresses before submitting the summons and complaint to the secretary of state. The plaintiff’s attorney had failed to attempt service at a known, out-of-state address before serving the secretary of state. Accordingly, the plaintiff failed to strictly comply with the statute. This case explores the requirements imposed on a Washington plaintiff attempting to serve a non-resident defendant for a motor vehicle collision in Washington.

Davis v. Blumenstein, Wash. Ct. App. No. 76918-9-I (Jan. 14, 2019).

RCW 46.64.040...

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