Tennessee Service of Process and the Statute of Limitations in Personal Injury Cases -- Cristy Irene Fair v. Stephen Lynn Cochran
If you have a Maryville or Knoxville personal injury case, you are encouraged to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the methods, practices, and procedures of the civil court system. It can be unfortunate to have your personal injury case dropped or encumbered by a technical error.
Recently, in Fair v. Cochran, the Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled whether service of process without proof of service would preclude a plaintiff from using commencement of a lawsuit to satisfy the statute of limitations. Service of process ensures that all parties have been timely notified of a lawsuit. In Fair v. Cochran, the plaintiff, Ms. Fair, brought a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, Mr. Cochran, claiming negligent operation of a vehicle causing a motor vehicle accident in August 2009. The plaintiff filed her complaint in Knox County in December 2009 within plenty of time for the one-year statute of limitations. The plaintiff hired a process server who claims the defendant was served process at the defendant's residence in December 2009. However, the process server inadvertently failed to notify the court with a proof of service. Proof of service was not filed until January 2011.
In January 2011, the defendant requested that the lawsuit be dismissed since he claimed he had never been served process, and the one-year statute of limitations for the claim had passed. The trial court dismissed the case, and a Tennessee Appellate court affirmed, stating that Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 4.03 required the return of proof of service within ninety days of the summons. They held that the failure to give proof of service precluded the plaintiff from using the commencement of the lawsuit, filed in December 2009, to satisfy the statute of limitations.