WA Case Update: Failing to Provide Evidence: When Challenging Service Will Work Against You

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: When a defendant in a motor vehicle accident challenges service of process because he has moved out of state, will he be able to rely solely upon the declaration of his family member?  Read on to see what pitfalls to avoid if you are challenging service.

Claims Pointer: In this auto accident case, the Washington Court of Appeals held that the defendant failed to rebut the presumption the plaintiff completed proper service of process.  The defendant challenged substitute service at his “usual abode,” claiming he had moved out of his father’s home and was living, working, and attending school in Texas.  However, he only provided his father’s declaration to support his claim, and the court noted that when a party fails to produce relevant evidence within its control without satisfactory explanation, a trial court is permitted to infer that the evidence would be unfavorable to the nonproducing party.  Service was effective because the defendant failed to support his claim with clear and convincing evidence sufficient to overcome the presumption that service was proper.

Northwick v. Long, 192 Wash App 256 (2015).

Following a motor vehicle accident, Peggi Northwick (“Northwick”) filed a lawsuit alleging Andrew Long (“Long”) was the at-fault driver.  Northwick served Long by leaving copies of the Summons and Complaint with his father, Hoeun Long (“Hoeun”), at a Snohomish, Washington address where records showed Long’s car was registered.

Long claimed insufficient service of process and filed a motion to dismiss, supporting his motion with a declaration from Hoeun.  In the declaration, Hoeun stated Long moved out some time before December 25, 2013.  While Hoeun did admit a man had come to his house on March 8, 2014, and he told the man he was Long’s father, Hoeun stated the man did not ask whether Long lived there and did not request Long’s current address.  Hoeun told him Long had his own car in his...

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