Case Number: BC719034    Hearing Date: October 30, 2018    Dept: 24

Defendant’s Motion to Quash Service of Process is GRANTED.

Background:

On August 23, 2018, Plaintiff Rude Cosmetics, Inc. commenced this action against Defendants Roadrunner Transportation Services, Inc.; Freightquote.com, Inc.; and Hyatt Regency, Inc. alleging three causes of action for breach of contract, negligence, and declaratory relief.

Prior to commencement of this action, Plaintiff’s counsel sent a demand letter and a draft copy of the complaint to “Hyatt Regency Jacksonville” on July 9, 2018.

On August 21, 2018, counsel for Hyatt Corp received correspondence from Plaintiff’s counsel, dated August 7, 2018,[1] requesting that counsel for Hyatt Corp accept service of the summons and complaint. On that same day, counsel for Hyatt Corp left a voicemail for Plaintiff’s counsel stating that counsel for Hyatt Court could not accept service for “Hyatt Regency, Inc.” because it was not a valid entity and not a related entity of Hyatt Corp.

On September 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed a proof of service indicating that on August 27, 2018 “Hyatt Regency, Inc., a Delaware Corporation” was served by hand delivering the summons and complaint to Becky Degeorge of CSC Lawyers Incorporating Service. On August 29, 2018, CSC sent correspondence to Plaintiff’s counsel indicating that it rejected service of process for the party served, “Hyatt Regency Inc.” and could not forward it because the name of the company to which service of process is directed must be identical to the company name on file with the Secretary of State since two or more companies can have very similar names. On August 31, 2018, Plaintiff’s counsel emailed a courtesy of the proof of service.

On September 12, 2018, counsel for Hyatt Corp responded to the proof of service and contested the service based on the name of the entity named in the summons and complaint was Hyatt Regency Inc. not Hyatt Corporation. Counsel asked that Plaintiff amend the complaint to name Hyatt Corporation and re-serve the complaint. The parties were unable to resolve the dispute. This motion was filed on September 24, 2018.

Hyatt Corporation (“Hyatt Corp”) is specially appearing in this action to seek an order quashing service of process of the summons and complaint.

Discussion

A defendant may serve a motion to quash service of summons on the ground of lack of jurisdiction of the court over him or her. The motion must be served on or before the last day of the defendant’s time to plead or within any further time that the court may allow for good cause. (CCP § 418.10(a).)“Compliance with the statutory procedures for service of process is essential to establish personal jurisdiction . . . . Unless otherwise provided by statute, notice of a claim against a defendant in a civil action is given by service of a summons on the person.” (Renoir v. Redstar Corporation (2004) 123 Cal.App.4th 1145, 1152; CCP § 415.10 [personal service on the defendant].)

“When a defendant challenges the court’s personal jurisdiction on the ground of improper service of process the burden is on the plaintiff to prove … the facts requisite to an effective service.” Summers v. McClanahan (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 403, 413 (internal quotes omitted). Filing a proof of service completed by a registered process server that complies with the statutory standards creates a rebuttable presumption that service was proper. (Floveyor Int’l, Ltd. v. Sup.Ct. (Shick Tube-Veyor Corp.) (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 789, 795; Evid. Code § 647. But see Dill v. Berquist Const. Co., Inc. (1994) 24 Cal.App.4th 1426, 1441-42 [no presumption of proper service where proof of service showed service on unauthorized person].)

“It is well settled that strict compliance with statutes governing service of process is not required. Rather, in deciding whether service was valid, the statutory provisions regarding service of process should be liberally construed to effectuate service and uphold the jurisdiction of the court if actual notice has been received by the defendant. (Citation.) Thus, substantial compliance is sufficient. (Citation.) Furthermore, service on a person who was ostensibly, even if not actually, a corporate officer is sufficient under section 416.10. (Citation.)” (Gibble v. Car-Lene Research, Inc. (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 295, 313, citing Pasadena Medi-Center Associates v. Superior Court (1973) 9 Cal.3d 773, 778.)

“[A] finding of substantial compliance requires three preconditions. First, there must have been some degree of compliance with the offended statutory requirements. (Citation.) Second, the objective nature and circumstances of the attempted service must have made it ‘highly probable’ that it would impart the same notice as full compliance. (Citation.) Finally, it must in fact have imparted such notice, or at least sufficient notice to put the defendant on his defense. In this regard, it is not enough that the process inform the defendant of the fact of a lawsuit, or even of a lawsuit in which his name appears. Due process requires notice of ‘the duty to defend.’ (Citation.)” (Carol Gilbert, Inc. v. Haller (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 852, 865–866 [citations omitted; emphasis in original].)

Unless otherwise required by statute, a summons must be directed to the defendant, signed by the clerk and issued under the seal of the court in which the action is pending. (CCP § 412.20(a).) It must also all parties to the action. (CCP § 412.20(a)(2).) Additionally, in an action against a corporation, the summons that is served must contain a notice stating in substance: “to the person served: You are hereby served in the within action…on behalf of (here state the name of the corporation …) as a person upon whom a copy of the summons and of the complaint may be delivered to effect service on said person ….” (CCP § 412.30.)

Effecting service upon a corporate defendant requires delivery of the summons and complaint to a person on behalf of the corporation, which can include an agent for service of process. (CCP § 416.10(b); Corp. Code § 2110 [service upon foreign corporation].)

A simple misspelling of the defendant’s name in the summons and complaint that does not render the defendant unaware that he or she is the person named as a defendant does not render the service void. (Sakaguchi v. Sakaguchi (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 852, 857.) However, service is void and no jurisdiction is obtained where the summons completely fails to identify the proper defendant. (General Motors Corp. v. Superior Court (1971) 15 Cal.App.3d 81 [service void where the summons delivered to a corporation’s customer relations manager was directed at a different business, notwithstanding the fact that the corporation was designated as a party defendant in the caption of the summons and complaint and was referred to throughout the allegations of the complaint. See also Mannesmann Demag, Ltd. v. Superior Court (1985) 172 Cal.App.3d 1118, 1123 [no compliance at all where summons failed to disclose that defendant served was one of the persons sued under fictitious name and absence of name of defendant otherwise as a person being sued made summons so incomplete on its face as to render it ineffective to impart notice, and thus inadequate].)

The Court finds that case law supports the conclusion that the instant case is not a case of substantial compliance but a case of no compliance at all with sections 412.20(a) and 412.30. Liberal construction cannot cure a complete failure to comply with these sections. Specifically, while Plaintiff served Hyatt Corp’s designated agent for service of process, the summons is not directed at Hyatt Corp and neither the summons or complaint identifies Hyatt Corp as a defendant. Instead, the summons and complaint identifies Hyatt Regency Inc. as a defendant, not Hyatt Corp, and the notice required by section 412.30 is directed at Hyatt Regency Inc., not Hyatt Corp. Thus, Plaintiff failed to comply with CCP sections 412.20(a) and 412.30.

Plaintiff’s failure to comply with sections 412.20(a) and 412.30 is not a case of a simple misspelling Hyatt Corp’s name like the summons at issue in Sakaguchi. Instead, Plaintiff’s identification of Hyatt Regency Inc. in the summons and complaint instead of Hyatt Corporation is more like the summons at issue in General Motors that identified a completely different business. In fact, the error here is more substantial than the error in General Motors because here, unlike the defendant corporation in General Motors, Hyatt Corp was not designated as a defendant anywhere in the summons or the complaint. As such, the summons did not command Hyatt Corp to do anything at all since it was completely lacking in the required notice. Consequently, Plaintiff did not substantially comply with the statutory requirements for service of summons.

Actual notice of litigation did not confer personal jurisdiction on Hyatt Corp in the absence of substantial compliance with requirements for service of summons. (Mannesmann Demag, Ltd., supra, 172 Cal.App.3d at 1124.) Therefore, the motion is GRANTED.

Moving party is ordered to give notice.

[1] This August 7, 2018 letter references a letter from Hyatt dated July 20, 2018 responding to Plaintiff’s initial July 9th demand letter. However, neither party provided a copy of the July 20th letter.

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