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Cox v. Quigley

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Brief Fact Summary.

Defendant was raised in Ithaca, New York, went to college in Main, and had grandparents in Florida, who he would visit. Defendant was served at his father’s residence in Ithaca, New York multiple times. Defendant did not appear in court, and the court entered a default against him. Defendant motioned that the court lacked personal jurisdiction.x`

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A transient defendant may not properly be served by leaving a copy of a summons and compliant at the defendant’s parents residence.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Cases following Erie have evinced a broader policy to the effect that the federal courts should conform as near as may be — in the absence of other considerations — to state rules even of form and mode where the state rules may bear substantially on the question whether the litigation would come out one way in the federal court and another way in the state court if the federal court failed to apply a particular local rule.

View Full Point of Law

Defendant, Joseph Quigley, was raised in Cayuga Heights Road in Ithaca, New York. Thereafter, Defendant went to college in Maine. Subsequently, Defendant’s parents moved to Iradell Road in Ithaca. The home did not have a room for Defendant. When Defendant would spend the summer there, he would sleep on a cot in the basement. Later, Defendant joined the Military Sealift Command, spending most of his time at sea. Defendant changed his listed address to the address where his grandparents’ lived in Florida. In Florida, Defendant would vote in elections and also file his income tax returns. In June of 1988, Cox, Plaintiff, obtained a lawyer and served process on Defendant at Defendant’s parents house on Iradell Road. Defendant’s father did not accept service and told Plaintiff’s lawyers that Defendant did not live there. Nonetheless, Plaintiff’s lawyer, again, had the sheriff leave process with his force and mailed a copy of the service to the parent’s home. Defendant’s father’s lawyer returned service, stating that Defendant’s father would not accept service for his son. Defendant never appeared at court, and a default judgment was rendered against him.  Defendant motioned to vacate the default on the grounds that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over him because he was improperly served.  Defendant, himself, was not viewed as credible witness with regard to his residence in June 1988 because there was evidence that Defendant continued to have a New York driver’s license, conducted business with the Iradell Road address, had his mother conduct his business tasks from New York, and when Defendant was not at sea, Defendant would split his time by visiting his parents in New York, grandparents in Florida, sister in Maine, and other individuals.


Whether a transient defendant may properly be served by leaving a copy of a summons and compliant at the defendant’s parents residence.


No, a transient defendant may not properly be served by leaving a copy of a summons and compliant at the defendant’s parents residence.


If a transient or homeless defendant does not have a usual place of abode, service may not be made by leaving a copy of a summons and compliant at the defendant’s parents residence. Instead, the defendant must personally be served. Under FRCP 4, a plaintiff may have an alternative to personal service if the defendant is trying to avoid service of process by leaving service at defendant’s usual place of abode. Yet, transient and homeless defendants may not even have a usual dwelling or place of abode, causing the alternative service of process to be unavailable. Here, Defendant clearly changed his address to the Florida address. Although Defendant had some connections with parents’ Iradell Road address, in June 1988, Defendant did not live with his parents. Instead, Defendant spent most of his time at sea, a location where it is difficult to be contacted, and spent the rest of his time split between New York, Maine, Florida, and elsewhere. Even though it seems ridiculous that Defendant’s father did not notify Defendant of the suit, Defendant’s circumstances made it difficult to contact him and family relationships are variable. Therefore, Defendant was not properly served, and the default judgment is vacated.

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